Cnidarian Regulatory Biology and Stress Responses

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Starlet sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis) eating a brine shrimp (small brown spot indicated by an arrow). Animals (including humans) can be exposed to pollutants through many routes, including ingenstion of contaminanted food sources.

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» Circadian Symposium
We hosted a symposium titled "Keeping time during animal evolution: conservation and innovation of the circadian clock" at the January 2013 SICB* meeting. (* Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology)

Living in a Dynamic World: Nematostella vectensis is a small, burrowing sea anemone that is native to salt marshes in the Atlantic coast of the United States.


The anemones must detect environmental cues related to their surrounding conditions. They may then respond by adjusting their physiology or perhaps even moving to a better spot.

In collaboration with Dr. Matthew Jenny (University of Alabama), we are investigating the effects of oil exposure on gene expression and physiology Nematostella.

Some of our results have been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology (2014), or please see an article in Oceanus Magazine describing the early stages of this project.

Cnidarian Circadian Regulation

Circadian rhythms regulate many aspects  of animal biology, from cycles of sleep and wakefulness to variations in energetic metabolism. We are interested in circadian regulation in Nematostella both to gain insight into cnidarian physiology and to better understand the evolution of the animal circadian clock.

We have recently described expression of a series of "Clock genes" in Nematostella in response to light-dark cycles. Most notably, we found that expression of Clock and some Cryptochromes is upregulated during light periods, particularly in response to blue light.

We have published a few papers on this topic and have more in the pipeline:

Tarrant AM, Reitzel AM. (2013) Introduction to the symposium—keeping time during evolution: conservation and innovation of the circadian clock. Int. Comp. Biol. 53(1):89-92.

Reitzel AM#, Tarrant AM #, Levy O. (2013) Circadian clocks in the cnidaria: environmental entrainment, molecular regulation, and organismal outputs. Int. Comp. Biol. 53(1):118-30.

Reitzel AM, Behrendt L, Tarrant AM (2010) Light entrained rhythmic gene expression in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis: the evolution of the animal circadian clock. PLoS ONE 5(9):e12805.

In our investigations of circadian signaling in Nematostella, We are currently collaborating with Dr. Oren Levy at Bar-Ilan University (Israel) through a grant sponsored by the United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation.


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Last updated December 22, 2014
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