Viktoria Betin Rose Hills
Characterization of signaling pathway involved in bacterial regulation of multicellular development in closest living relatives of animals
My project will study a bacterial-eukaryotic signaling interaction. Through the secretion of chemical signals, bacteria affect animal health and morphology. As the closest living unicellular relatives of animals, choanoflagellates are a good model system for the study of the evolutionary origins of long-standing partnerships between animals and bacteria. Choanoflagellates are single-celled eukaryotes that form colonies under certain conditions. A sulfonolipid molecule (a structural relative of the common cell signaling moleculessphingolipids) produced by the bacteria Algoriphagus machipongonensis triggers multicellular development in the colonial choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta. This bacterial-eukaryotic biochemical signaling interaction is an important example of how bacterial chemical signals affect animal morphogenesis. I will identify and characterize A. machipongonensis genes involved in the biochemical synthesis and release of this morphogenic sulfonolipid. Uncovering the genetic basis of the synthesis and secretion of this signaling molecule will help characterize this bacterial-eukaryotic interaction that has implications for the role of bacterial signaling in the evolution of multicellularity in animals.