Microbial symbionts greatly influence the physiology, ecology and evolution of their multicellular hosts through a series of complex and multilayered interactions. In marine ecosystems, many organisms employ toxins to kill or deter predators and pathogenic microbes in a phenomenon known as “chemical defense.” In some cases, these defensive toxins are produced by intracellular bacterial symbionts within the multicellular hosts. Our research goals are to discover the molecular bases of defensive toxin production, regulation and evolution in various marine symbioses.
Defensive symbioses are widespread in the marine environment and are an essential component of the healthy marine ecosystem. Understanding defensive symbioses at the level of molecular mechanism will reveal how microbes influence host biology and ecology and will shed light on the origins and evolution of marine symbioses at large.
Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems