Vent Epibiont Environmental Genome (VEEG) -A meta-genome level analysis of an extreme microbial symbiosis

Affiliation(s) PI/CoPI Project Period Funded by
DEES Murray, Alison 1/2002 - Present NSF- Biocomplexity GENEN program

Keywords: polychaete worm, symboisis, bacteria, hydrothermal vent chimneys, DNA sequencing

Project Description

In collaboration with Dr. Craig Cary, University of Delaware and others, this interdisciplinary project's goal has been to reconstruct the metabolism of a consortia of bacteria that live symbiotically with a polychaete worm which inhabits the walls of hydrothermal vent chimneys at depths from 2-3000 meters under the sea's surface. The approach for metabolic reconstruction has involved sequencing a large amount of DNA from this consortia and implementing a multi-step analysis process to sort through the sequence to identify genes and pathways that are encoded in it. We have participated in 2 ocean cruises and used the submersible Alvin to sample the worms (and their RNA) and study the environmental characteristics of their toxic, heat-laden habitat. Now that hypotheses are being formed regarding the metabolism of the symbionts we will construct DNA microarrays in the near future to see if the pathways suspected to be important are actually expressed. We have learned that the genomic complexity of the symbiont a community is much higher than originally thought - though we have been successful in reconstructing metabolic pathways for many of the major biogeochemical cycles that are occurring in this environment.

Research Image Gallery

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 The Pompeii worm, Alvinella pompejana, and its coat of epsilon Proteobacterial epi-symbionts. Image Source: Alison Murray
Pompeii worm colony on a hydrothermal vent chimney at 9N East Pacific Rise. (Source: Alvin Dive 12-02-2004).