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Project 3

Comparative genomic and transcriptomic analyses of chemosynthetic symbionts

PhD position. Supervisors: Frank Oliver Glöckner (MPIMM) and Andrés Moya (UniValencia) (with input from Michael Richter and Christine Klockow). Host: MPIMM. Secondment internship: to Biotechvana.


Symbioses between chemosynthetic bacteria and marine invertebrates were first discovered at deep-sea hydrothermal vents but are now known to be widespread in many different marine environments. They have evolved multiple times in convergent evolution from many different lineages of bacteria and in a wide range of host groups. The genomes of chemosynthetic symbionts from a few host species have recently been sequenced and several others are in the pipeline. The time is therefore ripe for a comprehensive analysis of genomes from chemosynthetic symbionts to better understand the evolutionary basis for the remarkable success of these symbioses.


To provide a better basis for understanding how the genomes of chemosynthetic bacteria have evolved through symbioses with marine invertebrates, the objectives of this thesis are to use comparative genomics for an extensive in-depth analysis of free-living and chemosynthetic bacteria. Transcriptomic analyses of key genes will reveal their importance within the symbiosis and be compared to their expression in closely related free-living bacteria.

Key methods

Comparative analysis of genomes, metagenomes and transcriptomes from symbiotic and free-living bacteria, phylogenetic analyses of key genes, analyses of intrinsic symbiont nucleotide usage patterns, lateral gene transfer, mobile genetic DNA, and virus-related genes, 454-sequencing of cDNA libraries, RT-qPCR, and mRNA FISH.