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Characterizing the role of organic compounds in development and symbiosis establishment in Exaiptasia diaphana

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  • Nutrients play a large role in sustaining the symbiotic relationship between the algae and host sea anemone. The endosymbiotic algae provides the host with fixed nitrogen, sugars, and inorganic food sources, while the host provides the algae with shelter and nitrogenous waste. If the anemone does not receive the proper amount of nutrients from the algae, it starts to become a burden to host, which results in the breakdown of the symbiotic relationship and induces bleaching. Increasing ocean temperatures have been linked to nutrient fluctuations in marine environments that affect corals’ ability to reproduce, develop, and exchange nutrients between symbiotic partners. To understand how nutrients are being exchanged and how this affects development and reefs’ ability to recover from bleaching, we will test how altering feeding regimens affects development in Aiptasia. To observe the developmental progress and how it changes with altered feeding regimens, we will focus on pedal lacerates. With bleaching events decimating coral reefs at unprecedented rates, asexually creating lacerates is a way for corals to recover from bleaching with rapid repopulation. Little research has been done on lacerate development and the extent at which they can assist in coral reef recovery. More specifically, we decided to focus on an organic compound composed of fatty acids called lipids. In sea anemones, lipids are among many other nutrients and compounds that are cycled between host and algae. Lipid metabolism can be greatly affected by thermal stress which leads us to question the role of lipids in coral bleaching and how they may be involved in the symbiotic relationship between host and algae. Our goal was to characterize the role of lipids in both the development and the symbiotic relationship in the sea anemone Exaiptasia diaphana.
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  • The completion of the project is was supported by NSF, OSU, and the SURE Program donors.
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  • 4 minutes

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