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Kwee Boon Seah


Department of Symbiosis

MPI for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstr. 1
D-28359 Bremen




+49 421 2028-904

Kwee Boon Seah

Main Research Interests

The focus of my research are ciliates called Kentrophoros, which live in shallow water marine sediments. They have bacterial ectosymbionts which oxidize sulfur and fix carbon, and which are thought to provide food for their hosts.

There are several species of Kentrophoros, and these are found around the world, making it a good example for comparing the symbionts of related host species by phylogeny and geography. As a single-celled eukaryote (protist), Kentrophoros can also show us whether principles learned from symbiosis with animal hosts also hold true for other eukaryote-prokaryote symbiotic systems.

I am interested in the physiology of the bacterial symbionts, and what they have in common with the symbionts of other host organisms. The methods that I employ in my research include microscopy, phylogenetics, and comparative genomics.

Please refer to the Symbiosis Department webpage for more information on the Kentrophoros symbiosis.



Seah BKB, Schwaha T, Volland JM, Huettel B, Dubilier N, Gruber-Vodicka HR. 2017. Specificity in diversity: single origin of a widespread ciliate-bacteria symbiosis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284 (1858): 20170764. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.0764


Petersen JM, Kemper A, Gruber-Vodicka H, Cardini U, van der Geest M, Kleiner M, Bulgheresi S, Mußmann M, Herbold C, Seah BKB, Antony CP, Liu D, Belitz A, Weber M. 2016. Chemosynthetic sulphur-oxidizing symbionts of marine invertebrate animals are capable of nitrogen fixation. Nature Microbiology, 2: 16195. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.195


Lehnen N, Marchant H, Schwedt A, Milucka J, Lott C, Weber M, Dekaezemacker J, Seah BKB, Hach PF, Mohr W, Kuypers MMM. 2016. High rates of microbial dinitrogen fixation and sulfate reduction associated with the Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica. Systematic and Applied Microbiology, 39 (7): 476-483. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2016.08.004


Seah BKB, Gruber-Vodicka HR. 2015. gbtools: Interactive visualization of metagenome bins in R. Frontiers in Microbiology 6: 1451. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01451


Curriculum Vitae

Jun 2013 -
Doctoral student, Symbiosis Department, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology.
Topic: Bacterial ectosymbionts of the ciliate Kentrophoros
Sep 2011 -
Mar 2013
M.Sc., Marine Microbiology. International Max Planck Research School of Marine Microbiology (MarMic).
Thesis: "Bacterial ectosymbionts of the ciliate Kentrophoros"
Sep 2007 -
May 2011
A.B. (summa cum laude), Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Harvard College
Thesis: "A tripartite animal-protist-bacteria symbiosis"
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