The immune system of squid consists of blood cells called hemocytes. These hemocytes enter the organ in which the glowing bacteria live, and destroy bad bacteria while allowing the glowing bacteria to live. We don’t understand how hemocytes know good vs bad bacteria. We know what genes and proteins are present at high levels in hemocytes, but we're not sure what each does. What I am currently working on is figuring out which proteins are involved in making the decision of which bacteria to kill. The protein, PGRP5, recognizes a molecule on the surface of some bacteria. This protein is present at very high levels in immune cells, so we think it's very important for their function.
All animals have microbial partners that are essential to the animal’s health. There are over 1000 bacterial species in the mammalian gut, making it difficult to study host-microbe interactions. Alterations in bacterial communities in humans have been associated with various diseases, including obesity, bowel diseases and autism. Our squid provides a uniquely simple model for understanding symbioses because the beneficial bacteria is contained to one organ and only one species of bacteria survives in this organ. This simple system allows us to manipulate experimental conditions in order to understand how host immune systems interact with symbiotic bacteria. We can apply what we learn in our squid to understanding more complex symbioses, as in the human gut.
Determine what immune cells use to distinguish good vs. bad bacteria.
With this funding I hope to work towards determining the role of the peptidoglycan recognitions protein, PGRP5. PGRP5 is one of the most abundantly expressed genes in immune cells, which leads us to believe that it is very important for immune cell function. Specific questions I will answer will be:
1) Does PGRP5 leave the cell and kill bacteria surrounding the cell?
2) Does PGRP5 kill certain types of bacteria?
3) Where is PGRP5 located in the cell?
In the future I also plan to answer these questions with other proteins that are present at high levels in immune cells.
In order to study the squid's immune system, we need to have squid on hand in the lab at all times. Our squid eat ghost shrimp, which are not terribly expensive individually, but over time the cost adds up. We generally have about 20 squid in the lab, some which we have raised and some of which we collect from Hawaii. Most of the money for the lab goes into the maintenance of our squid facility, but we also need lab reagents and antibodies for our immune cell experiments. Taking blood from squid does not necessarily kill the squid, but the squid needs to be strong and healthy to survive being bled. In order to ensure our squid can take it, each needs to be fed 3 shrimp a day. The more money we raise the longer we can keep the squid facility running and the more advanced experiments can be done.
If you donate 1 dollar
We will thank you on our website, nyholmlab.uconn.edu
If you donate 5 dollars
As above, and we will acknowledge you in an academic presentation of our research.
If you donate 10 dollars
You can name one of our adult squid, and we will send you a picture of your squid via e-mail
If you donate 20 dollars
You can name a juvenile squid and we will mail you a thank you note with a picture of your squid
If you donate 50 dollars
We will send you a signed print of your choice of scientist/artist Andrea Suria's "Euprymna"(8.5x11) or Sarah McAnulty's "Sepia apama". Comment which print you'd prefer. (Limited to the U.S., International $70 donation)
"Sepia apama"- Sarah McAnulty
If you donate 100+ dollars
We will give you a tour of our squid facility in Storrs, CT. Great opportunity for kids to talk to a real life scientist! Groups are welcome for this donation level (i.e. classrooms).
If we reach...
4,000 we can support the squid room for 2 months
5,000 as above, and afford an antibody for more advanced immune cell experiments
6,000 as above, and afford a collection trip for the next round of experiments