2000 Annual Science Report
Marine Biological Laboratory Reporting | JUL 1999 – JUN 2000
Relationship of Genetic Changes to Phenotypic Changes in Organism -- Environment Interactions
The principal goal of this research is to understand and model genotype-phenotype relationships through studies of variation in opsin genes from closely related species. While this goal has been maintained, the research design has changed to eliminate all work on drug resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is more obviously of medical interest, and instead focus entirely on the model system of opsins and light absorption. Further, the research organisms for this work have been changed from Cephalapoda (squid, octopi) to Odonata (damselflies and dragonflies). For the work on opsins, Odonata offer substantial advantages –
1. Ease of collecting: odonates are easily collected using insect nets.
2. Local species diversity: approximately 105 species of odonates occur on Cape Cod.
3. Gene diversity: odonates have 4-6 opsins genes per species, and thus greatly increase the sampling effectiveness.
Together these advantages have already allowed for an greatly improved sampling efficiency and species diversity, and will result in greater genotype and phenotype diversity, thus increasing the power of the study. The research started with field collection of 26 species of dragonflies and damselflies. These species represent six families and fifteen genera; a broad range of diversity within the group.
We have prepared poly(A)-RNA from all 26 species. Complimentary DNA has been prepared for most of these samples using RT-PCR, and subsequently cloned. We have sequenced at least two opsin cDNA clones from each of 16 species and have collected single sequences from most of the other field samples. Planned work for the next year include the following: a week-long intensive field collecting trip to Maine, during which time we expect to double the number of species in the study; continuing laboratory work with an emphasis on increasing the efficiency of the sequencing of the cDNA clones; building a bioinformatics infrastructure to increase the automation of data processing using Perl and other tools; building a project database using MySQL and PerlDBI.