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Reconstructing the hybrid evolution of a toxic group of algae

Reconstructing the hybrid evolution of a toxic group of algae

By In Aiv Internship On March 7, 2019


Internship title: Reconstructing the hybrid evolution of a toxic group of algae

LABORATORY
Name: Groupe Génomique des Plantes et Algues
Affiliation: Institut de Biologie de l’Ecole Normale Superieure
Address: 46 Rue d’Ulm, Paris 75005
E-mail: dorrell@biologie.ens.fr

LAB Director
Name: Chris Bowler
Phone number: 0144323534
E-mail: cbowler@biologie.ens.fr

SUPERVISOR
Name: Richard Dorrell
Phone number: 0144323534
E-mail: dorrell@biologie.ens.fr

Subject Keywords: Algae; Chloroplasts; Phylogenetics; Transcriptomics; Environmental Sequencing
Tools and methodologies: Transcriptome sequencing
High-throughput phylogenetics
Metabolic pathway maps
Evolutionary rate calculations
Biogeography
Summary of lab’s interests: The Bowler group is an interdisciplinary research team, using genomic data to understand fundamental processes underpinning cell biology and epigenetics in plants, and the diverse range of microbes supporting the world’s oceans. Our research spans in-lab work on transformable species, including Arabidopsis and the diatom Phaeodactylum, to large-scale in silico environmental sequencing datasets, such as the TARA Oceans Expedition, a global survey of marine life and biological processes. We use these data to understand how global ecosystems responding to anthropogenic climate change, and provide new tools for the synthetic engineering of novel crop species to support a growing planetary population.
Project summary: The dinoflagellates are an ecologically important group of marine algae, supporting the photosynthetic activity of corals, and containing species capable of forming fish-killing harmful algal blooms. Dinoflagellates are also evolutionarily bizarre organisms, with cell biology quite unlike other major eukaryotic groups.

Amongst their numerous evolutionary innovations, dinoflagellates are known to frequently lose their chloroplasts and replace them with chloroplasts of other evolutionary derivations, through a process termed “serial endosymbiosis”. Notably, dinoflagellates that undergo this replacement event can retain genes and pathways associated with their previous chloroplast lineages. In some manners, dinoflagellates can therefore be considered to be genetic chimeras, possessing pathways from multiple different sources that they have interacted with over their evolutionary history.

In this project, you will use combined wet and dry techniques to understand the biology of one particular group of dinoflagellates, the Kareniaceae. This lineage has a well-defined, serially acquired chloroplast, and is also globally distributed, notably including highly toxic species in the genera Karenia and Karlodinium. You will seek to answer how has the chloroplast replacement event impacted on the cell biology and evolution of Kareniaceae, and whether this event has changed the ecology, physiology, or even toxicity of this group in the contemporary ocean.

Interdisciplinary aspect of the project: This project will use techniques from different facets of experimental biology and bioinformatics to understand a globally important algal lineage. This may include:

– Transcriptomic sequencing of the as yet unexplored species Karenia selliformis, Karlodinium armiger, and Karlodinium decipiens
– Evolutionary rate calculations, and high-throughput phylogenomics of Kareniaceaen dinoflagellate genomes and transcriptomes
– In silico reconstruction of chloroplast metabolic pathways
– Investigation of the bio-geographical distribution, and ecological properties associated with Kareniacean dinoflagellates, using data from the TARA Oceans survey