Using Bioinformatics Tools to Explore Symbiotic Associations Between Marine Invertebrates and Microbes
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Restriction TypeAuburn University Users
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The relationships and interdependence of microbes and marine invertebrates play a critical role in maintaining the marine ecosystem and are also pointers to environmental health and biodiversity. Some of these symbiotic associations have been shown to impact the morphology, behavior, and development of both the host and the symbionts. My dissertation expands on these studies by exploring the symbiosis between marine invertebrates and their microbial counterparts at various levels. My first project focuses on analyzing transposable elements characterized by long terminal retrotransposons (LTR retrotransposons) in the genome of the annelid tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi. These elements are integrated into the host genome, influencing the host's evolution and potentially gene function. During this project, I developed a bioinformatics pipeline that can be used to characterize these elements in non-model organisms in order to provide insight into their evolution. In the second project, a novel Mycoplasma symbiont was identified in the genome of Gorgonocephalus chilensis. This study provides insight into the metabolic capabilities and potential role of this novel Mycoplasma symbiont and its evolutionary placement. Surprisingly, we found the Mycoplasma symbiont to have a very broad geographic range spanning the Pacific Ocean. The last project focuses on the variations in the microbial composition of farm-raised and wild oysters, highlighting these variations and exploring their functional capabilities. By examining these variations, we gained insight into the presence of opportunistic pathogens in these communities and explored the functional capabilities of the microbial communities. Overall, my dissertation aims to contribute to the understanding of the intricate relationships between marine invertebrates and their microbial symbionts, enhance our knowledge of the marine ecosystem and contribute to the preservation of environmental health and biodiversity.