Saturday, December 10, 2016

Living Together: The Symbiosis of Host-Microbial Interactions

ibiology |  Advances in rRNA sequencing and other techniques have allowed scientists to characterize novel symbiotic partnerships.  In her first lecture, Dr. Margaret McFall-Ngai provides an overview of the three main types of symbiosis: mutualism (both partners benefit), commensalism (only one partner benefits), and parasitism (one partner benefits, but the other partner is harmed).  McFall-Ngai’s research is currently focused on understanding the establishment and maintenance of symbiotic relationships, and the molecular effects that these relationships have on development, health, and disease.

In her second talk, McFall-Ngai tells the story of a symbiosis between the Hawaiian bobtail squid and Vibrio fischeri (V. fischeri), a type of luminescent bacteria that enables the squid to hunt at night. McFall-Ngai and collaborators have identified the molecular mechanism by which nascent Hawaiian bobtail squid select V. fischeri from the thousands of other bacteria in their habitat.  V. fischeri induces developmental changes in the squid that drive daily rhythms of gene expression, which are necessary to control bacterial growth, a crucial cycle in this symbiotic partnership.