such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
Though the slow moving purple sea urchin may look oblivious, lacking a
head, eyes and ears, this prickly creature has an impressive suite of
sensory receptors to detect outside signals. And don't overlook this
animal's self-defense abilities: it has much more ammunition to
activate its innate immune system than humans have. The starlet sea
anemone lives in coastal areas that face increasing pollution, and it
is better equipped than many land, ocean, and freshwater animals to
tolerate environmental stress.
These insights into the biology of marine organisms didn't come from
observational studies; they were revealed by deciphering and comparing
the animals' genomes. The powerful advantages of using gene catalogs to
infer biological function in marine animals are highlighted in a
virtual symposium in the June issue of The Biological Bulletin, published by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Emerging research on the genomic structure of marine organisms is
giving scientists new clues as to how certain physiological systems
evolved. The genomes of ancient Cnidarians, of which the jellyfish is
best known, are being used to discern how cells adhere to form organs
and organisms. The genome of Ridgeia piscesae, a tubeworm that has
co-evolved with bacteria to thrive in the extreme environment of
deep-sea hydrothermal vents, is illuminating the molecular
underpinnings of symbiosis.
Genetic sequencing, a once-expensive technology, continues to enjoy
reductions in cost and increases in speed that allow even smaller
laboratories to produce molecular "maps" to study and compare
"Science runs on three things – very bright ideas, improved
technology and the money to do the research," says R. Andrew Cameron of
the California Institute of Technology, who organized The Biological Bulletin
virtual symposium along with Jonathan P. Rast of the University of
Toronto. "As genomes become less and less expensive to sequence, then
it is easier to justify sequencing more genomes to open new areas of
By plugging DNA sequences from a marine organism like the sea urchin
into a genetic database, researchers can find similarities between sea
urchin genes of an unknown function with, for example, human proteins
used for sensing light. Further experiments can then test if the sea
urchin genes are coding for a sensory protein. Comparing the human and
the sea urchin genes can also help illuminate how the sensory protein
"The benefit of having new model systems is that we can ask
questions with organisms in which peculiar characteristics of the
genome are very important," Cameron says. For example, some of the
marine animals featured in this virtual symposium have unexpectedly
complicated sensory systems or immune systems that differ greatly from
those of the fruit fly or the nematode worm, standard models in genetic
studies. "I think there is good justification for these marine metazoan
studies in that we will eventually apply this knowledge to the organism
we're most interested in – ourselves," he says.
Prominent investigators who have established genome projects on marine metazoans are participating in The Biological Bulletin virtual symposium. Their papers include:
"All of the people who are represented in this symposium are
investigators at the MBL or have used the MBL in one way or another to
collect their experimental animals and study them," Cameron says. "MBL
has been the focus of new kinds of research for a long time. This
symposium is not a gathering of many distant lines of facts; rather it
reflects contemporary research within the MBL community."
Source : Marine Biological Laboratory. June 2008.
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