Project Details


a non-technical description Proposed research blends concepts in physiology, genomics, biophysics, and biochemistry with marine ecology and oceanography. Advances in diatom genomics and the development of genome-enabled tools over the past 5 years, combined with classical physiological and biophysical techniques provides, for the first time, the ability to understand how diatoms sense and transduce light signals and convert them into chemical energy for growth and productivity. This will provide the fundamental information on diatom physiology that is required for understanding the potential diatoms have in mitigating global climate change through carbon sequestration. This project will provide hands-on training of Rutgers? undergraduates from underserved and underrepresented communities who will actively participate in the work. Proposed research will also catalyze a new international collaboration between the U.S. and France and broaden the participation of women by promoting and fostering the participation of two early career, rising female researchers.a technical description Diatoms, unicellular, eukaryotic photoautotrophs, are one of the most ecologically successful and functionally diverse organisms in the ocean. As photoautotrophs, light is a key environmental signal that is required as a source of energy for photosynthesis and growth, but, in excess, can also be a source of mutagenesis and cell death. Light capture must therefore be balanced with the intracellular capacity for photochemical conversion of that light into energy and/or the safe dissipation of excess photons. Diatoms possess a suite of sophisticated mechanisms that allow them to maximize growth and photosynthesis while minimizing damage and cell death. However, the molecular basis underlying these mechanisms has remained largely uncharacterized. The goal of this project is to answer fundamental questions regarding the molecular regulation of photosynthetic processes in these ecologically important organisms. Despite the ecological dominance of diatoms and their tight connection to both carbon and silicon biogeochemistry, little is known about the molecular mechanism regulating their photosynthetic capacity and growth. As secondary endosymbionts of the red plastid-lineage, diatom chloroplasts and, therefore photosynthetic processes, are fundamentally distinct from green plastid-lineages (e.g. higher plants and chlorophytes). Therefore, direct extrapolation on the regulation of photosynthetic processes from higher plants and chlorophytes is not always applicable or relevant. This proposed multi-pronged approach will bring together researchers with interdisciplinary expertise and will merge physiology, biophysics, molecular biology, molecular ecology, and oceanography. The specific goals of this project are to: 1) Characterize the molecular mechanism of a recently identified plastid-localized regulator of photosynthesis and 2) Identify novel molecular regulators of photosynthesis by screening libraries of genetic mutants using physiological and biophysical-based methods. The ecological importance of diatoms and their potential to play a role in mitigating global climate change through carbon sequestration calls for a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms used to modulate their photosynthetic processes. This research is expected to provide significant information about the regulation of these processes and improve our knowledge on the factors controlling the distribution and productivity of marine diatoms in the modern ocean.
Effective start/end date6/15/145/31/15


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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