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Ross Sea Dinoflagellate Transcriptomes

You are what you eat: the role of kleptoplasty in an Antarctic dinoflagellate

Algae play an important role in the fixation and export of CO2 in the Southern Ocean, and this has led us to propose exploring the genetic basis for the function of these chimeric cells with regard to their functional adaptation to extreme environments. In this project I am studying the evolutionary history and expression of plastid-targeted genes in an abundant Antarctic dinoflagellate that steals chloroplasts from the haptophyte, Phaeocystis. The project seeks to determine whether the kleptoplastidic dinoflagellate utilizes ancestral plastid proteins to regulate its stolen plastid, and how their transcription is related to environmental factors that are relevant to the Southern Ocean environment (temperature and light). This work will help in understanding the environmental success of this alternative nutritional strategy, and to assess the potential impact of anthropogenic climate change on the organism.

Specifically, I propose to;

  • Identify what plastid genes are present in the host dinoflagellate nuclear genome and determine their evolutionary history.
  • Examine the expression of those dinoflagellate nuclear genome plastid genes in response to environmental variables, and to compare this to the expression of similar genes in Phaeocystis under the same conditions.

Funding Agencies

The National Science Foundation under grant number PLR-1341362 funded this research.



Dr. Elisabeth Hehenberger in Dr. Patrick Keelings laboratory at the University of British Columbia has been collaborating with me on this work.