I am interested in the symbiotic relationships between deep-sea invertebrates and chemoautotrophic bacteria. These symbioses take place at hydrothermal vents – unique ecosystems where the release of hot fluids rich in inorganic reduced compounds into the surrounding seawater creates a local enrichment in chemical energy in an otherwise energy-limited deep-sea. This allows for a partnership between symbiotic bacteria that harness the energy in reduced chemical compounds to create organic matter, which provides nutrition for their animal hosts. Filamentous bacteria are commonly found in association with different invertebrate hosts, such as Bathymodiolusmussels or Alvinocarid shrimps.
My main projects focus on the study of the bathymodiolin deep-sea mussel symbiosis. In this fascinating study system the mussel is thought to completely rely on bacterial endosymbionts for its nutrition. However, our research has found that other bacteria are also involved in the symbiosis. My work investigates the epsilonproteobacterial epibionts that have been found associated with several species of bathymodiolin mussels. I am interested in their distribution patterns and understanding their metabolic potential and adaptations to a symbiotic life-style. Another system I am currently investigating is the internuclear pathogen infecting these same mussels. In particular, I am interested in understanding what allows this pathogen to invade and persist in the nucleus, an unusual niche to inhabit.
A secondary project I am working on is the characterisation of the ectosymbiotic bacterial populations associated with the hydrothermal vent shrimps Rimicaris. By comparing ectosymbiotic populations sampled at multiple locations throughout the Atlantic, I aim to understand the diversity of the bacterial population and the specificity of the uptake of bacteria by the host.
You can find more about me on my science blog: www.aassie.net/Pro
Generally I am interested in the following topics:
The mechanisms driving the prokaryote-eukaryote interactions and how they evolved
The bacterial plasitcity to adapt to new and/or varying environmental conditions