Diatoms are photosynthetic eukaryotes providing close to one quarter of global fixed carbon and approximately one fifth of the oxygen we breathe. Remarkably, very little is known about their basic biology and how it is affected by environmental change. The Diatomics project will address these issues in marine diatoms using information based on two completed diatom genome sequences. Important topics that will be addressed include carbon sequestration, nutrient acquisition, the rise and fall of algal blooms, and biofouling. We will study gene expression profiles at the whole genome level in response to ecologically-relevant stimuli, will manipulate expression of candidate key genes by reverse genetics, and will study phylogenetic histories and ecological significance of these genes in a range of diatoms. Ultimately, the project should lead to the development of non-neutral markers that can be used to assess diatom ecophysiology in natural environments in response to changing environmental conditions. Furthermore, a subset of diatom genes will be transferred into rice by an SME, with the aim of improving key agronomic traits. An improved understanding of diatom biology can also lead to advances in human health care and well-being.
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