Investigating the effects of allelochemicals secreted by dinoflagellates on the thylakoid membranes of marine diatoms

PI:  Benjamin Bailleul 

Chloroplast Biology and Light-sensing in Microalgae

2-year contract

The host laboratory has a long-lasting expertise in photosynthesis, chloroplast biology and microalgal research and the project aims studying the biotic competition between marine microalgae based on photosynthetic physiology.

Phytoplankton is responsible for 50% of photosynthesis on our planet but despite its ecological importance, our understanding of the dynamics and structure of phytoplankton communities is still limited. The project aims at investigating the role of allelopathy and competition for nutrients in the biotic competition between phytoplankton species. In the frame of the ERC starting grant PhotoPHYTOMICS, we recently developed an innovative method for the simultaneous measurement of photosynthesis of each microalga in a mixture, allowing investigating the physiology of each component of a phytoplankton assemblage, through the prism of the thylakoid membrane integrity and photosynthetic function.

A recent screening within the microalga collection of the Biological Station of Roscoff revealed frequent events of inhibition of the photosynthesis of one microalga by another, some of them being mediated by nutrient deficiency. One example is the inhibition of the photosynthetic activity of diatoms (Thalassiosira pseudonana, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Skeletonema costatum) by the dinoflagellate Amphidinium carterae through the uncoupling of thylakoid membranes, preventing the synthesis of ATP.

The postdoctoral project aims at I) further dissecting the mechanism of allelopathy and the role of nutrient status in the biotic competition between Amphidinium carterae and diatoms, II) extending the screening to identify new allelopathic interactions in phytoplankton, and iii) paving the path for investigation of biotic competition in the field.

Required skills: applicants should be qualified in biophysics of photosynthesis. They must have a strong interest for phytoplankton ecology, as well as some experience in molecular biology (especially transcriptomics) and biochemistry. Previous experience with metabolomics would be an asset. The candidate must be innovative, rigorous, and have good communication skills to work in a team.


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