Bacterial symbionts of invertebrates living in extreme habitats

Main area:Molecular ecology
 
Target group:Biology, Biology, Biology
 
Educational level:Masters, Masters
 
Project description:
It takes special skills to live under the extreme environmental conditions found in e.g., sulphide-rich habitats of the deep sea, marine caves, or nutrient-rich sediments. However, more and more studies point towards animals’s reliance on bacterial symbionts to handle such environmental challenges. Yet, these relationships and their functionality are generally under explored and poorly understood. With this project, we seek to document and compare bacterial symbionts and their functionality in closely related marine invertebrates living in caves, deep sea and coral sand. Bacterial symbionts have here been hypothesised to, e.g., serve nutritional or protective purposes or supporting cellular processes. Symbionts will be molecularly identified using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) targeting 16S rRNA genes and nitrogenase genes. NGS-based amplicon sequencing allows detection of low frequency variants, quantitative analysis of mixed populations, and scalable analysis of a large number of samples. The symbiont position and interaction with the host animals will be investigated using a range of advanced microscopy imaging techniques, involving e.g. immunostaining and confocal laser scanning microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and possibly FISH. The project will include sampling of host animals in various environments and offers the student unique insights into a range of both morphological and molecular techniques. The study will take place in CPH (UP4) and in Helsingør.
 
Methods used:Confocal laser Microscopy, immunostaining, computational 3D reconstructions, DNA extraction, PCR, NGS-based amplicon sequencing, phylogenetics, comparative morphological and molecular analyses.
 
Keywords:bacterial-invertebrate symbiosis, extreme environments, meiofauna, symbiont evolution & functionality, meiofauna life strategies
 
Supervisor(s):  Katrine Worsaae, Lasse Riemann
 
Email:kworsaae@bio.ku.dk