Photosymbiosis Across the Eukaryotic Tree of Life : Comparative Genomics within Cnidarian, Molluscan, Acoel and Rhizarian Holobionts
Our Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics (ASG) Hub focuses on diverse organismal associations that rely on photosymbioses (PS), where one partner actively provides energy for the association through photosynthesis.
Jose V. Lopez, Nova Southeastern University
Symbioses between macrosymbionts (hosts) and microsymbionts (microbial partners) can display diverse features and modalities: shared metabolic pathways, chemautotrophic dependencies, assistance with digestion, mutual defense via mechanical structures or biologics.
Sunlight provides much of the energy that sustains life on this planet, even for aquatic invertebrates, and thus composes another important symbiotic opportunity.
Our Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics (ASG) Hub focuses on diverse organismal associations that rely on photosymbioses (PS), where one partner actively provides energy for the association through photosynthesis. This dependency has evolved several times throughout evolution, and we will attempt to characterize the phenomenon, via whole genome sequencing, and the common underpinnings of photosymbiotic mechanisms that occur in macrosymbiotic taxa such acoel flatworms, scleractinian and soft octocorals, sponges, saccoglossan mollusks and giant clams, green hydra and tunicates.
Microsymbionts associated with these invertebrate hosts can include cyanobacteria to dinoflagellate algae. This wide phylogenetic spectrum of invertebrates will enable our hub to determine how each specific photosymbioses gets established and maintained. Comparison of genomes will help delineate unique mechanisms, and test hypotheses likely correlated to phylogeny. For example, horizontal gene transfers are crucial to PS development. Facultative and constitutive PS will also vary considerably in genetic loci or operons dedicated to each type.