DSSS - Exploring evolutionary adaptations to the terrestrial subsurface in the Devil Worm
- Date: Jul 7, 2023
- Time: 03:00 PM - 04:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
- Speaker: John Bracht
- Assoc. Professor Department of Biology, American University, Washington DC
- Location: NO.002, MPI für Intelligente Systeme
Nematodes constitute one of the most diverse—and adaptable—phyla on earth. We recently sequenced the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes of the Devil Worm, Halicephalobus mephisto, discovered in a gold mine in South Africa living at 1.3km below the earth’s surface. This unique organism is adapted to a warm, hypoxic subterrestrial environment, and displays multiple evolutionary changes relative to surface nematodes. In this talk I will summarize ongoing work in my lab including an evolutionarily expanded role of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR), an unexpected link with the insulin signaling pathway, and evidence that the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase has developed an enhanced proton pump. In establishing H. mephisto as an experimental model system, we can analyze functional roles for genomic adaptations, going beyond gene or mutational catalogs. This unique, evolutionarily altered organism offers insights into mechanisms of enhanced stress resilience, making it a valuable contributor to our understanding of fundamental biology.