Algae

Event Date: 
Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 18:15 - 18:30
Institution: 
Australian Institute of Marine Sciences
Title: 

Coral Reefs Go Viral: Unveiling the viruses associated with corals in a changing climate.

Abstract: 

Viruses are the most common biological agents in the global oceans, with numbers typically averaging ten billion per litre. The ability of viruses to infect all organisms indicates they most likely play a central role in marine ecosystems and have important consequences for the entire marine food web. Marine viruses influence many biogeochemical and ecological processes, including energy and nutrient cycling, host distribution and abundance, and horizontal gene transfer events. Research into viruses associated with coral reefs is a newly emerging field. Corals form an obligate symbiotic relationship with the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium, upon which the coral relies heavily for nutrition and calcification. Disruption of this symbiosis can lead to loss of the symbiotic algae from their host, resulting in coral bleaching and, if the symbiosis cannot re-establish, death of the coral colony. While a number of factors, including elevated reactive oxygen species production by Symbiodinium have been linked to coral bleaching, viral infection has not been methodically examined as a possible cause. Viruses that potentially target the algal symbiont, Symbiodinium sp., have been reported previously; therefore, we examined whether Symbiodinium in culture is host to a virus that switches to a lytic infection under stress, such as UV exposure or elevated temperature. Analysis of algal cultures, using techniques including flow cytometry and transmission electron microscopy, revealed prevalent viral activity, regardless of experimental conditions. This talk will present recent results and results allow for the development of molecular diagnostic probes for rapid detection of viruses in field samples, and will help monitor and assess the role of viruses in coral bleaching and holobiont functioning.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 18:00 - 18:30
Institution: 
San Diego State University
Title: 

Integrating microbial community dynamics into kelp forest ecosystem models

Abstract: 

Metagenomics has enabled a greater understanding of microbial community dynamics than previously realized and now the challenge is to integrate microbial dynamics into ecological models. My lab takes an ‘omics approach mixed with classical microbiology to identify factors affecting microbial communities and how an altered microbial community will affect macro-organism health and ecosystem functioning. The key habitats are coral reefs and kelp forests. Within the kelp forest, we have started with a culturing approach that has identified novel genomes associated with the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera. Phenotypic assessments of these bacteria have identified increase in the microbe’s ability to tolerate copper and resist antibiotics with increasing human activities. We have tested the effects of altered microbial abundance and community composition on survival and development of M. pyrifera gametophytes. Decreasing microbial abundance enhanced M. pyrifera recruitment, increasing zoospore settlement and gametophyte development. Gametophytes reared in microbial communities sampled adjacent to the populated city showed lower survival and growth compared to gametophytes in microbial communities from a remote island. Metagenomics revealed a high abundance of phototrophic and oligotrophic microbes from the island, compared with an abundance of eutrophic microbes adjacent to the city. In addition, microbes adjacent to the city lacked genes that produce quorum signaling molecules, negatively influencing kelp spore settlement. Long term analyses of the microbial communities from the kelp forest have been initiated and we are currently investigating the microbes associated with the water column and kelp surface at two distinct depth. First, at 0.5 m depth where the water is warmer, highly oxygenated and receiving large amounts of carbon from photosynthesis and second, at 15 m depth where the water is under seasonal thermocline, colder, lower in oxygen, and can potentially be exposed to high partial pressure of carbon dioxide. Monthly sampling has revealed microbial number is lower at depth and pCO2 is higher. Metagenomic analysis of these samples is under way. Kelp feeds the ecosystem through degradation and we are currently investigating the effects of microbes on kelp degradation and subsequent nutritional value. We have shown altered microbial communities are detrimental to kelp recruitment and are identifying way of adding these data to ecosystem models.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 18:30 - 19:00
Institution: 
Australian Institute of Marine Science
Title: 

A microbial perspective of coral from the Great Barrier Reef

Abstract: 

Coral reefs are fundamental in providing ecological, social and economical benefits to local communities, governments and nations. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is an iconic symbol in our national psyche, representing approximately 17% of the global tropical coral reef area with an estimated economic value at greater than AUD$5 billion per year. Coral reefs are constructed through the close association between reef building corals and their symbiotic dinoflagellate microalgae (Symbiodinium). However just as in other animal systems, corals are now thought of as a holobiont, forming additional close and intricate associations with a range of other microbial organisms such as bacteria, archaeae, fungi and viruses. Over the last decade a greater understanding has been obtained in how corals shape and structure their microbial partners, providing important functional roles in maintaining overall coral fitness. The cycling of nitrogen and sulfur compounds within the holobiont are increasingly being recognised as driving many of these coral microbial associations and have important consequences for coral health and the subsequent resilience of coral reefs. For example, nitrogen fixing bacteria (diazotrophs) within the Rhizobia group, which accomplish nitrogen fixation after establishing symbiosis in the roots of host plants, also appear common and specific to corals. These associations are established at the earliest larval life stages and maintained as the coral grows in mature colonies. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) the uptake of diazotrophic bacteria and passage of nitrogen into coral larvae can be observed, providing evidence that diazotrophs can provide an additional nitrogen source to the animal. Reef-building corals are the most prolific producers of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), a molecule central in the marine sulphur cycle and precursor of the climate-active gas dimethylsulphide (DMS). Recent work has shown that the coral animal itself can produce DMSP, hence overturning the paradigm that photosynthetic organisms are the sole biological source of this compound. DMSP represents a rich nutrient source for bacteria with diversity surveys highlighting an extensive overlap between bacterial species associated with corals and species implicated in the degradation of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). Again using FISH and NanoSIMS approaches, this close interaction between corals, their Symbiodinium partners and associated bacteria can be visualised. Interestingly, through the metabolism of DMSP, a Pseudovibrio sp. commonly associated with corals produced tropodithietic acid (TDA), a sulfur-containing antimicrobial which is suspected to act in protecting corals from invasive microbial species. Anthropogenic stresses such as increased sea surface temperatures, nutrient input and sedimentation can shift these coral-microbiota associations, thereby contributing to reduced coral fitness. For example, production of TDA by the coral associated Pseudovibrio sp.was significantly reduced at higher temperatures potentially reducing the protective effect the compound can provide the coral holobiont. Temperature stress also causes shifts in coral associated microbial communities, with a metagenomic approach demonstrating a shift in the microbial community away from autotrophy and an increase in virulence associated genes. Coral diseases are on the rise with disease outbreaks contributing to significant loss of both key reef organisms and coral cover. Recent assessments have documented sharp declines in coral reefs globally, therefore an understanding of the microbial factors that underlie coral health and fitness are paramount.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 06:00 - 06:15
Institution: 
UNSW
Title: 

Viral infections of Ecklonia radiata

Abstract: 

 
Ecklonia radiata the dominant habitat-forming seaweed in temperate Australia has experienced high rates of mortality in the last decades. Disappearance of this kelp forest would have serious consequences for the marine ecosystem. The causes of mortality are not yet understood but we hypothesise a combination of environmental stress and viral infection. We could demonstrate that disease symptoms such as discolouration and bleaching are widespread but patchy distributed around Australia, which does not correlate simply with latitudinal variation in water temperatures. Focussing on the Kelp populations along the highly urbanised coast of Sydney we observed a highly site-specific pattern in the frequency of disease symptoms in E. radiata populations. Photosynthetic activity of discoloured thalli was significantly reduced compared to co-occurring, healthy (dark brown) thalli. Moreover, we were able to demonstrate that discoloured tissue from Ecklonia radiata from multiple sites around Sydney were infected with a viral pathogen. Inoculation experiments in the laboratory with the extracted viruses of sick tissue resulted in infection of healthy tissue of Ecklonia radiata. The frequency of putative disease morphotypes, and the relative abundance of viruses in Ecklonia radiata around Sydney appear to be higher at sites that are impacted by untreated wastewater discharge.  

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 06:00 - 06:15
Institution: 
UTS
Title: 

Sulfur scent for a harmful algae killer

Abstract: 

 
Marine harmful algal blooms (HABs) are dense ephemeral proliferations typically of dinoflagellates, cyanobacteria or diatoms. These HABs can cause illness and death in humans and marine life, or ecosystem alterations affecting food provision and recreational activities. Despite being recognised as a major environmental challenge, little is known about what makes HABs thrive and vanish. For dinoflagellates, which account for 75% of HAB-forming phytoplankton species, bottom-up factors (including: eutrophication, climate change and species dispersal) are common triggers, yet the causes of bloom termination remain obscure.
Parasitoids have been identified as a major cause of termination of coastal harmful algal blooms, but the mechanisms and strategies they have evolved to efficiently infect ephemeral blooms are largely unknown. This study investigated the potential cues for parasite infection by the generalist dinoflagellate parasitoid Parvilucifera sinerae (Perkinsozoa, Alveolata). It showed that P. sinerae was activated from dormancy by Alexandrium minutum cells. Further investigation identified the algal metabolite dimethylsulphide (DMS) as the density-dependent chemical cue for the presence of potential host cells. The presence of DMS allowed the parasitoid to alternate between a sporangium-hosted dormant state and a chemically activated, free-living virulent state. DMS-rich exudates from infection-resistant dinoflagellate species also induced parasitoid activation, which can be interpreted as an example of a co-evolutionary arms race between parasitoid and host. These results further expand the involvement of dimethylated sulphur compounds in marine chemical ecology, where they have been described as foraging cues and chemoattractants for mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates and plankton microbes.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 19:15 - 20:00
Institution: 
University of Queensland
Title: 

Sizing up the symbiotic partnership: towards a single-cell view of nutrients uptake in cnidaria-dinoflagellate symbiosis

Abstract: 

Reefs based on scleractinian corals are among the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. At the heart of their success as the architects of coral reefs, is their symbiosis with dinoflagellate algae, which live within their tissues and provide corals with an enlarged metabolic repertoire. Thus corals are ‘polytrophic’, being able to acquire carbon-based nutrients from sunlight through their algal symbionts (‘autotrophic’), feeding on plankton (‘heterotrophic’), and absorbing dissolved nutrients from the surrounding water. These strategies increase the nutritional options of corals in an environment where planktonic food supplies and dissolved nutrients in seawater may be episodic.

The intertwined nature of coral-dinoflagellate endosymbiosis has made the relative quantification of host and symbiont contributions to metabolic activities extremely difficult so far. Consequently, whilst we now recognize the threats of human activity, future climate change and associated symptoms of stress on the reef, very little is known about the nutritional function of the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis that underpins and maintains reef health.

In this talk, I will explore how the development of new technologies combining isotopic labeling and high resolution imaging analysis opens a new interdisciplinary frontier in the study of such symbiotic interactions with direct implications for how these organisms will respond to environmental changes.

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