Photo above: Marine protists known as thraustochytrids produce carotenoids, which are responsible for giving them a yellow to orange color. Carotenoids are essential nutrients for animals, and of biotechnological interest for several applications. EMS scientists are using genetic tools to test whether a novel thraustochytrid gene is involved in carotenoid biosynthesis. What results from the genetic manipulation is the white colonies on these plates – a possible indication of the phenotype of carotenoid-less thraustochytrids that results when the novel gene is inactivated.
STONY BROOK, NY, July 19, 2018 – Tremendous advancement of basic biological knowledge has come from genetically manipulating model organisms to test mechanistic hypotheses. But the selection of traditional model organisms available offers a limited view of biological diversity, meaning that they cannot be used to investigate a broad swath of novel and important processes. Now an international team of scientists including Jackie Collier, PhD, an Associate Professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University, is investigating how to genetically manipulate a variety of marine protists –unicellular microscopic organisms that are not classified as a plant, animal or fungus – to develop new experimental models that may help to advance scientific understanding not only in oceanography but in other areas of the biological sciences.
The initiative, launched in 2015 is called the Experimental Model Systems (EMS) Program. A paper describing the diversity and implications of these new model systems, and the unusual collaborative approach of the EMS program, is now published in PLOS Biology.
“Our group created new tools to genetically manipulate a variety of marine protists,” said Collier. “These protists comprise a very diverse group of single-cell eukaryotes that are major components of marine ecosystems and food webs – including the phytoplankton that perform about half of the photosynthesis in the oceans and cause problems in coastal systems such as harmful algal blooms like brown tide – and because of this we may be able to discover new insights into basic biology with broad ecological implications.”
According to the authors, the “EMS program has ignited new drive, progress, and resources to overcome what many in the field of marine prostisology, ecology, and oceanography have recognized as a significant obstacle to understanding these complex and important biological systems.”
The EMS Program is part of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Marine Microbiology Initiative. Collier’s research at SoMAS is supported by the Foundation.
About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.
The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) is SUNY’s designated school for marine and atmospheric research, education and public service. SoMAS is one of the leading coastal oceanography institutions in the world and features classrooms on the water. The School is also the focus for the study of atmospheric sciences and meteorology and includes the Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres, Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, Institute for Particle-Related Environmental Processes, Living Marine Resources Institute, Waste Reduction and Management Institute and Long Island Groundwater Research Institute.