A project on the Light Language of Marine Microorganisms, in which IMEDEA participates, receives the prestigious "HFSP Research Grants" subsidy awarded to 108 of the most pioneering scientists in life sciences from 23 countries.

14/04/2024

The project "Illuminating Microbial Communication Networks: the Phycosphere Lab" has recently received the prestigious research grant from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).

 

This project, which explores a little-known aspect of the marine microbial world - communication through light - has brought together scientists from various disciplines and international institutions. Christophe Coudret, from the Softmat Laboratory at the University Toulouse III in France; Glen Wheeler, from the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom in Plymouth; Jean-Baptiste Raina, from the Climate Change Cluster at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia; and Idan Tuval, from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA CSIC-UIB).

 

Image: Nanoparticles adhered to a marine diatom, probing the behavioral response of bacteria associated with the phycosphere. Authors: Glynn Gorick, C. Coudret, J.B. Raina, I. Tuval, and G. Wheeler.

Unraveling the mystery of whether marine microorganisms use light as a means of communication.

For decades, the scientific community has maintained the premise that marine microorganisms communicate primarily through chemical signals. However, recent results1 in the Physical-Biological Interactions in the Ocean research group (Infibio) have demonstrated in the case of pennate diatoms the relevance of light-mediated communication among organisms of the same species, challenging this paradigm by suggesting the possibility that light also plays a fundamental role in microbial communication.

Planktonic microorganisms, including phototrophs and parasites, have been shown to be sensitive to light and capable of altering their light environment in various ways, from light scattering and absorption to fluorescence and bioluminescence emission.

The research team of the HFSP project will further explore these observations by attempting to unravel the light language between microorganisms of different species in their interaction in the phycosphere: the ecological interface for phytoplankton-bacteria relationships.

Using cutting-edge technologies such as microfluidics and synthesis of light-emitting nanoparticles, the project will conduct the first controlled experiments specifically designed to investigate light communication between different marine microbial species. If the hypothesis that microorganisms use light to communicate is confirmed, this finding could have broad implications in fields ranging from marine ecology to practical applications in applied sciences.

With the participation of experts from various fields and the application of cutting-edge technologies, this project promises to shed light on a fascinating and underexplored aspect of the marine microbial world.

 

 

1 "Pelagic diatoms communicate through synchronized beacon natural fluorescence signaling" Joan S. Font-Muñoz, Marc Sourisseau, Amanda Cohen-Sánchez et al. Science advances, 7

https://www.hfsp.org/hfsp-news/2024-research-grants-awardees

Image: Nanoparticles adhered to a marine diatom, probing the behavioral response of bacteria associated with the phycosphere. Authors: Glynn Gorick, C. Coudret, J.B. Raina, I. Tuval, and G. Wheeler.