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Understanding alga-microbe symbiosis

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Algae offer a unique opportunity for producing low cost biofuel while at the same time using less land and water when compared to corn or sugarcane. Nonetheless there are several challenges that need to be overcome before this process becomes commercially viable. One of the challenges of cultivating algae on a large scale is protecting the crop from invasive microorganisms. Kazamia et al. (2012) propose creating a synthetic ecosystem by populating algal ponds or photobioreactors with known symbiotic bacteria that act in concert with the surroundings to promote algal growth and minimise risk of contamination by parasitic organisms. This is achieved by selecting symbiotic microbes to occupy niches that parasitic microbes may have tried to enter. Our lab developed an alga-microbe system to study symbiosis using Lobomonas rostrata (alga) and Mesorhizobium loti (bacteria). The symbiosis is dependent on the bacteria providing the algae with vitamin B12 and in turn the algae providing the bacteria with a fixed carbon source. I am investigating whether genes involved in Vitamin B12 synthesis are expressed at higher levels in the bacteria when the bacteria are grown in co-culture with Lobomonas compared to mono-culture. Additionally I also performed in silico studies identifying putative genes in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii that may be involved in algae-microbe interactions. Collectively this work seeks to improve our understanding of alga-microbe interactions.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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