Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars - North Technology

First harmful Algal Bloom genome sequenced

by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on 26 Feb 2011
The brown tides caused by Aureococcus anophagefferens—like the one above in Long Island, NY—do not produce toxins that poison humans, but the long-lasting blooms are toxic to bivalves and have decimated sea grass beds and shellfisheries leading to billions of dollars in economic losses. - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) © http://www.whoi.edu/
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - The microscopic phytoplankton Aureococcus anophagefferens, which causes devastating brown tides, may be tiny but it’s a fierce competitor.

In the first genome sequencing of a harmful algal bloom species, researchers found that Aureococcus’ unique gene complement allows it to outcompete other marine phytoplankton and thrive in human-modified ecosystems, which could help explain the global increases in harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The research team, led by Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in collaboration with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), will publish its findings online in the February 21 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The brown tides caused by Aureococcus do not produce toxins that poison humans, but the long-lasting blooms are toxic to bivalves and have decimated sea grass beds and shellfisheries leading to billions of dollars in economic losses. The blooms, which had not been documented before 1985, are now chronic, annual events in estuaries along the heavily populated coastlines of the eastern United States and South Africa. While HABs occur naturally, impacts from human activities, such as increased pollutants and excess nutrients from fertilizer runoff, have been linked to the rise in HAB outbreaks. Like many other HABs, Aureococcus blooms in shallow estuaries where light levels and inorganic nutrients are low, and organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations are high.

The 56-million base pair Aureococcus genome was sequenced in 2007 by the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute from a culture isolated from the shores of Long Island, NY—one of the areas most affected by the HAB. Members of the Aureococcus Genome Consortium then compared the genome with other phytoplankton inhabiting the estuaries where Aureococcus blooms. They found Aureococcus shows genome-encoded advantages over its competitors and is genetically predisposed to exploit certain characteristics of human-modified coastal ecosystems.

'There are things it can do that the other algae can’t, and those advantages are encoded at the genome level,' said Sonya Dyhrman, a biologist at WHOI and co-author of the paper. 'For example, it’s well-adapted to low light conditions and can survive for long periods in no light. Aureococcus had 62 light-harvesting genes whereas its competitors had, on average, a couple of dozen.'

The photosynthetic microalga also shows advantages when it comes to metabolizing organic matter—particularly organic nitrogen and organic carbon—and handling what would normally be toxic amounts of metals, like copper. Aureococcus also has a larger number of selenoproteins, which use the trace element selenium to perform essential cell functions.

'When we looked at the coastal ecosystems where we find Aureococcus blooms, we found they were enriched in organic matter, were very turbid and enriched in trace metals,' Gobler said. 'And when we looked at the genome of Aureococcus, it ended up being enriched in genes to take advantage of these conditions. The surprise was the concordance between the genome and the ecosystem where it’s blooming.'

New advances in the field of genomics have allowed researchers to better address difficult questions in environmental biology. Gobler described this new 'ecogenomic' approach—applying molecular techniques to ecological and environmental science—as a particularly powerful tool for understanding the dominance of different harmful algal blooms within different ecosystems around the world.

'It’s really exciting to be able to apply these new tools and a molecular approach to old questions about how organisms are functioning and interacting with their environment,' Dyhrman said. 'I’ve been interested in these kinds of questions since graduate school, but we simply did not have the tools then to approach it in this way. We now have a huge new tool kit and are able to look at these questions in a much more specific way than ever before.'

'I think this paper says it all,' added Don Anderson, Director of the U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms and a senior scientist at WHOI. 'Here’s a species that blooms and for years people have been trying to understand why it blooms, when it blooms, how it is able to do that when there are so many other competing species in the water with it. With this new genomic data you have a new approach. You’re getting answers based on the genes, though you still need other approaches that are more oceanographic and chemical to go along with the inferences drawn from the presence and absence of genes. It’s a great advance. It’s a great resource for our community—the more we learn about Aureococcus, the easier it’s going to be learn about the other HAB species.'

The research team will now start looking at Aureococcus’ RNA and trying to determine when and how different genes are expressed throughout the lifetime of the bloom.

'By looking at when the genes are transcribed through the bloom, we’re hoping to provide the next piece in the puzzle—understanding how the genes are responding to the environment and what is fueling and causing the demise of blooms,' Dyhrman said.

The long-term goal is to be able to keep blooms from occurring or at least be able to better predict and manage when blooms occur.

'We now know this organism is genetically predisposed to exploit certain characteristics of coastal ecosystems. We also know the characteristics are there because of activities of man,' Gobler said. 'If we continue to increase, for example, organic matter in coastal waters, then it’s going to continue to favor brown tides since it’s genetically predisposed to thrive in these conditions.'

Researchers from the University of Tennessee, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Rutgers University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Macquarie University, University of Delaware, Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology also contributed to this work. Funding for the research was provided by New York Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institutes of Health, and National Science Foundation.


http://www.whoi.edu/

T Clewring - GenericNaiad/Oracle SupplierBarz Optics - Melanin Lenses

Related Articles

Alternative energy - being embraced by the sailing world
Within the cruising world of sailing alternative power is old news, now the racing world is catching up fast. Renewable energy is a hot and sometimes controversial topic on land, but within the sailing world wind generators are old news, and being 'independent of the grid' is taken for granted.
Posted on 27 May 2013
Royal Yacht Squadron leads the armada against windfarm plan
Royal Yacht Squadron is orchestrating a campaign against the world's largest wind farm off the south coast of England Britain's most prestigious sailing club, the Royal Yacht Squadron, is orchestrating a campaign against the largest wind farm ever planned in the world, off the south coast of England. It fears the Navitus Bay wind farm could impact on the main sailing route from the Isle of Wight to the south west, including the Fastnet Race, which starts in Cowes and finishes in Plymouth.
Posted on 9 Apr 2012
Dogs join Ocean Environment Action Group
Is your dog passionate about the ocean environment? No longer does he have to bark in vain, he can be a 'Salty Dog'. Is your dog passionate about the ocean environment? If so, no longer does he have to bark in vain - Sailors for the Sea have a new category of membership - 'The Salty Dog' Membership
Posted on 18 Mar 2011
New Alliance to save whales AND sailors
Campaign group and sailors to work together for better environmental practice at sea for whales London-based campaigning organisation the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the organisation running the Global Ocean Race 2011-2012 (GOR) announce a unique partnership to seek ways to prevent collisions between whales and yachts. The partnership between a race organisation and an environmental organisation will benefit all cruising sailors, not only those who race
Posted on 15 Mar 2011
60ft Plastiki sets sail from San Francisco
The voyage of the Plastiki began in earnest yesterday as the 60’ man made plastic catamaran was towed unceremoniously ou The voyage of the Plastiki began in earnest yesterday as the 60’ man made plastic catamaran was towed unceremoniously out to sea of the San Francisco coast and released in calm condition and a gentle swell. The mission, the brain child of David de Rothschild , heir of the de Rothschild European banking dynasty began in 2006 and has seen its share of delays and setbacks, and a lack of cooperating w
Posted on 22 Mar 2010
Global Ocean Race on the World Yacht Racing Forum
Josh Hall, Race Director of the Global Ocean Race shared in a debate on methods of cutting overall costs in yacht racing Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, was one of the keynote speakers on the second day of the WYRF and supplied invaluable insight into the mechanics behind this highly successful event and shared the stage with Josh Hall, Race Director of the Global Ocean Race, in a debate on methods of cutting overall costs in yacht racing
Posted on 11 Dec 2009
World Yacht Racing Forum- the Business of Yacht Racing, Final Day
Highlight of the day was the America’s Cup session - with Russell Coutts, Paul Cayard and Brad Butterworth Among the highlights of the day were the America’s Cup session - with the exceptional presence of both Russell Coutts, Paul Cayard and Brad Butterworth - as well as the contributions by double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux and Brown GP F1 team CEO Nick Fry
Posted on 11 Dec 2009
Velux 5 Oceans launches 'Taking On The Elements'
Concept brings together all the key stakeholders in the race under the umbrella of the shared value of sustainability The Velux 5 Oceans today launched its sustainability agenda under the banner of ‘'Taking On The Elements'. The concept brings together all the key stakeholders in the race under the umbrella of the shared value of sustainability, providing a basis of understanding and a platform for activities and communications in 2010 and 2011
Posted on 9 Dec 2009
Study finds surprising new pathway for North Atlantic circulation
Oceanographers have long known that the 20-year-old paradigm for describing the global ocean circulation Oceanographers have long known that the 20-year-old paradigm for describing the global ocean circulation – called the Great Ocean Conveyor – was an oversimplification. But while the conveyor belt paradigm establishes the melody, the subtleties and intricacies of the symphony of global ocean circulation largely remain a puzzle.
Posted on 27 May 2009