Responses to Environmental Signals and Stressors by the Sea Anemone Nematostella vectensis


Thursday, September 15, 2011
Redfield Auditorium - 12:00 Noon
Dr. Ann Tarrant
Assistant Scientist, WHOI

Throughout evolution, organisms have needed to detect and respond to environmental conditions. Among animals, diversification in sensory and signaling systems has resulted in beneficial adaptations as well as variable sensitivity to stressors. The starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, is a member of the phylum Cnidaria, an early-diverging animal group. Studies conducted within Nematostella can provide insight into both the evolution of animal signaling processes and their diversification within Cnidaria. For example, Nematostella shares many components of the circadian clock with bilaterian animals, and expression of some of these genes oscillates in response to blue light. On the other hand, Nematostella lacks homologs to the ligand-activated nuclear receptors that mediate responses of bilaterian animals to many xenobiotic contaminants. Exposure of Nematostella to crude oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and ultraviolet light results in altered gene expression consistent with activation of a deeply conserved oxidative stress response and other protective mechanisms.