Phytoplankton inter-kingdom interactions

Microbial interactions are at the core of species success or failure. These interactions constitute an important component of microbial communities, where synergism, competition or grazing among species can drive the diversity of an ecosystem. The Armbrust lab is interested in understanding how interactions between phytoplankton and prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) shape the distribution of microorganisms across diverse marine habitats. Of particular interest is the role of interspecies communication in mediating these interactions. We use a combination of techniques in the laboratory and in the field including microbiological and co-culturing techniques, next-gen sequencing (transcriptomics and metagenomics), metabolomics, flow cytometry and computer engineering and development to achieve this goal.

(Shown above: Examples of bacterial interactions with diatoms, categorized as Competitive (purple), Synergistic (orange), and Parasitic (blue). An example of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) as evidence for past associations between diatoms and bacteria is also shown (green).)

Specific projects include:
  1. Characterization of the molecular basis of diatom-bacterial signaling and interactions using environmentally-relevant model systems (led by Shady Amin).
  2. Utilization of metabolomics to characterize the chemical currencies shared between diatoms and associated bacteria (led by Helena van Tol).
  3. Understanding of community-level interactions between microbial species using metagenomics (led by Vaughn Iverson).
  4. Characterization of the selective forces and mechanisms that drive the coupling between cyanobacteria and their protist grazers using flow cytometry and molecular tools (led by Francois Ribalet).