Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Bioluminescence in dinoflagellates : diversity, molecular phylogeny and field ecology
Author: Valiadi, Martha
ISNI:       0000 0004 2715 3808
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2011
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Marine dinoflagellates are an ecologically important group of protists within the plankton, performing key process such as photosynthesis, heterotrophy and toxin production. Some dinoflagellates are also capable of producing bioluminescence and they are the most abundant protists that produce light in the surface waters of the oceans. This study employed molecular tools to investigate the identity of bioluminescent species, the genetic basis, diversity and functional regulation of bioluminescence, and the distribution of marine bioluminescent dinoflagellate populations. Using “universal” and taxon specific PCR primers designed to amplify the luciferase gene (lcf), the distribution of this gene within dinoflagellates was found to be taxon specific and the first lcf sequences obtained from four genetically distant genera revealed a previously unknown high diversity of this gene. The luciferin binding protein gene (lbp) was detected for the first time in three genera of ecologically important gonyaulacoid dinoflagellates, showing that this understudied gene is common in dinoflagellate bioluminescence systems. Phylogenetic analyses of both lcf and lbp provided new insight on species divergence within the toxic genus Alexandrium and pointed out important pitfalls in using protein coding genes for phylogenetic studies. The lcf PCR primers were employed in the first field study using a molecular approach to detect natural populations of bioluminescent dinoflagellates, showing that this approach outperforms optical bioluminescence measurements and that their distribution and composition is intimately tied to hydrographic patterns that create distinct environmental zones. The lcf PCR primers were also employed to study the regional variation in bioluminescence of Noctiluca scintillans, showing for the first time that the environment maintains or eliminates bioluminescence, by finding that a hydrographically isolated non bioluminescent variety in the west coast of the USA has “switched off” its bioluminescence system while diverging to possibly become a different species. Also, a novel lbp was discovered in N. scintillans which improved the current model for the evolution of bioluminescence genes in dinoflagellates. This thesis is the first study to employ molecular tools in a comprehensive and multifaceted investigation of dinoflagellate bioluminescence and has contributed significantly to building a fundamental understanding of this remarkable phenomenon.
Supervisor: Iglesias-Rodriguez, Debora ; Painter, Stuart ; Purdie, Duncan ; Allen, John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GC Oceanography ; QH301 Biology