Christopher Lane, [faculty advisor, Department of Biological Sciences]
Genomics, red algae, parasites
Parasitic red algae are an evolutionary curiosity that have long been recognized, but remain poorly characterized. Parasitic red algae evolve directly from free-living relatives that are often their hosts, but time has led to the divergence of host and parasite morphology, lifestyle and DNA sequences. More recently evolved parasites infect only their sister species (adelphoparasites), whereas as more ancient parasites can attack more distantly related species (alloparasitism). The objective of this research is to sequence the mitochondrial (mtDNA) genomes of red algae in the family Rhodomelaceae: the alloparasite Choreocolax polysiphoniae and its host Vertebrata lanosa, to ultimately explore what effect a parasitic lifestyle has on the mitochondrial genome of a parasite that, on an evolutionary scale, is recently evolved when compared to most eukaryotic parasites. Nearly all of the mitochondrial genes that exhibit strong DNA sequence conservation have been sequenced from both organisms. For the parasite, C. polysiphoniae,10 genes are complete and, of these, 8 are sequenced for the host V. lamosa. Upon completion of entire genome sequencing from both organisms, mutational rate, gene content and nucleotide bias will be investigated. Using comparisons between the mitochondrion of the free-living host and the parasite, we will better understand the dynamics of genome evolution in eukaryotes during the early stage of parasite evolution.