Victoria Suarez-Ulloa defended her PhD dissertation last week with perfect scores!, this completes a very productive stage in her academic trajectory with 10 papers published, several presentations in international conferences and most importantly, a postdoctoral position already lined up in Europe to continue working with population epigenomics. Vicky, we’re really proud of you and wish you the best for the future!!!
Our own Michelot Michel (Biology senior) has been awarded with the Exemplary Service Award from the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, congrats!!! Michelot is also one of the finalists for the Outstanding Student Life Awards that will be announced tomorrow evening in a gala dinner and also for the Cuervo Prize awarded by FIU’s Biology Department. If all of that is not enough, Michelot is giving the final touches to his Honors dissertation, focused on the epigenetic responses of the flat tree oyster Isgonomon alatus to seasonal changes in Northern Biscayne Bay. Michelot will be defending his dissertation on April 17th at WC130, MMC Campus, FIU. We all look forward for a great presentation!
Our latest work “Effects of Florida Red Tides on histone variant expression and DNA methylation in the Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica” has been accepted for publication in the journal Aquatic Toxicology (3.557 impact factor, ranked 3/104 in Marine & Freshwater Biology). The unformatted version of the paper is available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166445X17300760 and HERE. This work was developed by our lab at FIU (Environmental Epigenetics group, Dept. Biology, Institute of Water and Environment, CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment) in collaboration with the Ecotoxicology Lab (SERC) and the University of Vigo, in Spain. We also collaborated with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve during this research. Our results provide a basis to better understand how Florida Red Tides affect oysters and epigenetic mechanisms participating in their responses to environmental stress, opening new avenues to incorporate environmental epigenetics approaches into management and conservation programs. We are currently building on this work in collaboration with Mote Marine Lab as well as with aquaculture stakeholders in south and central Florida.
Vicky Suarez-Ulloa is on an end of year winning streak! after getting a Dissertation Year Fellowship last month, she has been presented with the outstanding InWE-MERI grad student award (FIU’s Institute of Water and Environment, Marine Education and Research Initiative). Congratulations Vicky, on track to defend your Ph.D. dissertation this summer!!!
Last week we had the chance of participating in a session focused on environmental epigenetics in the world congress of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. It was really great to see so many people interested in using epigenetic approaches to address environmental problems, involving a wide range of new model organisms encompassing environmental and ecological relevance. From our side, we presented works investigating the epigenetic modifications involved in responses to Florida Red tides in Eastern oysters (talk by Dr. Eirin-Lopez), the different genetic networks activated during responses (Victoria Suarez-Ulloa) as well as the first results from our most recent efforts to elucidate the epigenetic mechanisms underlying coral responses to nutrient stress in the ocean (Javier Rodriguez-Casariego). Overall, we left with a great feeling and looking forward to see environmental epigenetics grow and its links with ecology, toxicoloy and physiology being further explored in the future!
Ciro Rivera-Casas (Chromevol’s former Ph.D. student at the University of A Coruna) has been awarded the University’s special prize for his Ph.D. dissertation focused on the characterization of chromatin and histone variants in marine invertebrates. But the celebration is double, as Ciro has been also awarded a 2 year postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Ramon Areces Foundation to join Chromevol at FIU. Congratulations sir!!
Agri Gene publishes papers that focus on the regulation, expression, function and evolution of genes in crop plants, farm animals, and agriculturally important insects and microorganisms. Agri Gene strives to be a diverse journal and topics in multiple fields will be considered for publication so long as their main focus is on agriculturally important organisms (plants, animals, insects, or microorganisms). Although not limited to the following, some examples of potential topics include:
Gene discovery and characterization.
Genetic markers to guide traditional breeding.
Genetic effects of transposable elements.
Evolutionary genetics, molecular evolution, population genetics, and phylogenetics.
Profiling of gene expression and genetic variation.
Biotechnology and crop or livestock improvement.
Genetic improvement of biological control microorganisms.
Genetic control of secondary metabolic pathways and metabolic enzymes of crop pathogens.
Transcription analysis of beneficial or pest insect developmental stages.
We are having a very productive 2016, including the publication of several peer reviewed papers, the incorporation of two new graduate students as well as the teaching of additional courses for undergraduates at FIU. Here’s a brief summary of the major research milestones for the first half of 2016.
In terms of our research, Ciro Rivera-Casas has published most of his PhD dissertation already, including two major papers in the last months. In the first one, he describes for the first time the presence of histone macroH2A in invertebrates (Rivera-Casas et al. 2016, Epigenetics 2:415-425). Such finding is quite relevant, as this variant was assumed to be an evolutionary invention of vertebrates.
The presence of complex histone variants in the chromatin of invertebrates is further supported by an additional paper by Ciro in which he describes the variant H2A.Z.2 in a mollusc (Rivera-Casas et a. 2016, Biochemistry and Cell Biology in press). Ciro is now working on a methods manuscript gathering all the expertise he has amassed on the study of chromatin in marine invertebrates during his PhD.
Also progressing with her PhD is Veronica Prego-Faraldo, who is scheduled to defend her dissertation by the end of the present year. Veronica has recently published a major paper in the journal Toxins (Prego-Faraldo et al. 2016, Toxins 8:6) describing the genotoxic and cytotoxic effects of marine biotoxins on mussels. This work is especially interesting for being one of the few available addressing the effect of the biotoxin okadaic acid in sub-lethal concentrations and in vivo.
Lastly, we have collaborated with Chris Nelson and Juan Ausio (Univ. of Victoria, Canada) in a paper studying how histone H3 sequence influence chromatin stability in yeast (Leung et al. 2016, FEBS Letters in press). We have developed all molecular evolutionary analyses included in this work, illustrating the progressive change in H3 protein sequences in different groups of fungi and their relationship/impact on the structure of the nucleosome and chromatin.
At the present moment our work is focused on wrapping up the last experiments supporting a paper focused on environmental epigenetic responses in oysters. In addition, we’re also keeping busy with the analysis of gene and protein expression data from last’s summer fieldwork at the Florida Keys. This work generated preliminary data to support a pre-proposal for NSF, which was invited for full proposal submission (due soon). In that project, we collaborate with the labs of Deron Burkepile at UC Santa Barbara and Steven Roberts at U. Washington, studying how nutrient and thermal stress affect coral epigenetic responses.
Overall, we are having a hell of a good time pushing all these projects forward. We’re getting really exciting results, we’re getting to know and collaborate with lots of very interesting and smart people and we can feel we are close to round up all this work into successful grant proposals.
That’s all for now, please, keep in touch with our work and see you around.
With a $5,000,000 grant from the National Science Foundation support (Division Of Human Resource Development), Florida International University will establish the Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment (CREST). Our group participates in this 5-year project led by Biology Professor Todd A. Crowl.
Human-derived environmental contaminants are recognized as having significant effects on ecosystems and biota as well as on human wellbeing. It is critical to understand the biogeochemical processes that govern the fate of these compounds and their impacts on the ecosystem. Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment research will address the sources, transport, transformation and ecosystem responses to contaminants, pollutants and other natural stressors, under changing land-use and environmental conditions. The proposed research will advance current efforts on the biological effects, transport, transformation and distribution of contaminants in the environment into new collaborative research areas that investigate the sources and transport of contaminants and pollutants in aquatic systems. The Center articulates three research subprojects organized around environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry, ecology and data synthesis and modeling as they pertain to regional water resources. In doing so, the Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment will establish innovative opportunities for students to experience authentic and socially relevant environmental research and foster their development as future STEM professionals.
Dr. Eirin-Lopez will be presenting the conference “The Epigenetics Revolution Reaches the Ocean” next Friday, April 15th, at the Murray E. Nelson Government Center in Key Largo, FL. A meet & greet will take place at 6 pm, followed by the conference at 7 pm. We’re looking forward to meet our Friends Of The Key Largo Cultural Center.