Abstract: Series 115, Lecture 3

The Harvey Lectures Series 115 (2019—2020)

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Lecture #3: Thursday, January 16, 2020 — Watch Video of Lecture

Bacterial as master regulators of mating, morphogenesis and motility in the closest living relatives of animals

Nicole King, PhD

Nicole King, PhD

Professor, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Dr King's Website

Although bacteria influence everything from health to metabolism to cell biology and development in animals, relatively little is known about the evolution and molecular underpinnings of these interactions. My lab has serendipitously discovered that environmental bacteria regulate mating and morphogenesis in the closest living relatives of animals, the choanoflagellates. While the secreted cues (sulfonolipids, a chondroitin-degrading enzyme, and retinal) serve seemingly mundane roles in the context of the bacteria from which they are derived, they induce major life history transitions in choanoflagellates. I will discuss (1) how bacterial cues elicit a response, (2) how choanoflagellates handle exposure to mixes of bacterial molecules that encode potentially conflicting information, (3) how (and why) choanoflagellates evolved to respond to bacterial cues.