Summaries of lab projects

As the first step to make Aiptasia a lab model organism, the Pringle lab generated transcriptomes of aposymbiotic adult and symbiotic adult Aiptasia, and helped to sequence the genome.  

Left: Symbiotic Aiptasia. Right: Aposymbiotic Aiptasia

Symbiosis - establishment & maintenance

The Aiptasia holobiont is comprised of the cnidarian animal, endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (family Symbiodinaceae), and associated microbiome. The Pringle lab has focused primarily on the cnidarian and algae partners. Questions we are interested in:

- How do Aiptasia and corals discriminate and choose compatible Symbiodinaceae?

- Once algae are endosymbiotic, how does Aiptasia control the population of its symbionts?

- How do different strains/ species of Symbiodinaceae contribute to fitness of the holobiont?

- How do different strains of Aiptasia contribute to the fitness of the holobiont?

Dysbiosis - breakdown & bleaching

When the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis is severely perturbed, it manifests as the phenomenon of coral bleaching. Bleached corals have lost endosymbiotic algae and we see their white-colored skeleton through their transparent tissue. At the global scale, high sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification are the dominant stressors to corals. At the local scale, water pollution and sedimentation from coastal development can severely impact coral health. Similarily, Aiptasia will bleach under various stressful conditions. Research projects have focused on:  

- What are the transcriptomic and proteomic changes which occur in Aiptasia during heat stress-induced bleaching? Full free PNAS article

- How do sunscreen UV filters distrupt the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis and cause toxicity to Aiptasia and corals?

Genetic Engineering Tools

Transformation of coral larvae

Transformation of Aiptasia larvae

We have successfully generated larvae with overexpression contructs and knock-down larvae via electroporation of plasmids, mRNA, and shRNA into single cell zygotes.