Take a look at the eye-popping, deep-sea exploration footage in this video about the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI). Julie Huber, associate director of the MBL’s Bay Paul Center, is also associate director of C-DEBI, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center at the University of Southern California.
The researchers involved with this collaborative national center, Huber says, are asking the “big questions” about life in the deep ocean and below the seafloor. “We are at the exponential exploratory phase,” says Huber, who is on the pioneering edge of discovering subterranean microbial life.
This video was produced by Mira Zimet at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Our arms and legs normally work so fluidly that we may forget that their size and location were determined by complex genetic control during early development.
Keys to the precise regulatory ballet that makes our limbs look the way they do may be found in a seemingly dissimilar group of organisms: sharks and skates.
Skates in the MBL’s Marine Resources Center. Photo credit: Laurel Hamers
Cartilaginous fish like sharks and skates are the oldest fish to have pectoral fins: paired appendages that are the evolutionary predecessor of our arms. Tetsuya Nakamura, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago, is spending the summer at the MBL investigating these cartilaginous fish. He hopes to elucidate the molecular mechanisms responsible for the diversity of fin shapes in this single group of fish and, on a broader scale, the evolution of appendage shapes across species.
“The best way to understand the diversity of fin types is to study an extremely strange fish, like the skate,” says Nakamura. “The pectoral fins of skate are very wide—they’re totally different from other animals.”
Nakamura is focusing on Hox genes, which control body patterning during embryonic development; they are responsible, for example, for making sure your arms attach below your shoulders and not out the top of your head. Researchers can manipulate individual Hox genes and readily see structural differences in the body parts influenced by that gene.
By comparing expression patterns of Hox genes in the fins of skates and closely related sharks, Nakamura is identifying specific genes that may be responsible for the skate’s elongated pectoral fins compared to the shark’s narrower ones. He will then manipulate the expression of these genes in an attempt to alter fin shape.
The blue lines show the cartilage structure in the fins of two fish. Note the shark’s narrow fins compared to the skate’s wide, fan-like ones. Photo credit: Tetsuya Nakamura, composite image by Laurel Hamers
“My opinion is that fin width is very important in deciding fin shape,” he says. “If I can control fin width, for example, to make narrower fin bases in skate, I think their fin shape would be like a shark’s.”
Nakamura, who is spending his first summer at MBL, is a member of Neil Shubin’s lab in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at UChicago.
The breadth and mysteries of Julie Huber’s research—from exploring the dark, peaceful ocean depths to mining enormous data sets about the microbes that live there—are captured in this video profile by Geoff Wyman of Falmouth. Huber describes her background growing up in the Midwest, and how her love for the ocean eventually led to a fascination with marine microbes and how they power the planet’s elemental cycles. Today, Huber dives to deep-sea environments around the world to collect samples of fluids from underwater volcanoes, which she analyzes back at the MBL to discover the microbial communities that can thrive under such extreme environmental conditions.
Huber is associate director of the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center, and is also associate director of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations at the University of Southern California.
Many thanks to Geoff Wyman for producing this video, the first in a series of profiles of MBL scientists.
A whimsical, enlightening video about cuttlefish camouflage by Jacob Gindi, a senior and biology major at Brown University, appeared in The New York Times last week. Gindi had encountered live cuttlefish when he visited the MBL’s Marine Resources Center as a student in The Art and Science of Visual Perception, a Brown course co-taught by Roger Hanlon of the MBL and Mark Milloff of Rhode Island School of Design. Gindi then had a chance to make a CreatureCast video in Casey Dunn’sInvertebrate Zoology class at Brown. Inspired by Hanlon’s research, Gindi’s artful video about the cuttlefish’s amazingly adaptive skin can be enjoyed by marine biology-lovers of all ages.
“It is so gratifying to see science and art promoted at this national/international scale,” says Hanlon, an MBL senior scientist and professor in Brown’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department through the Brown-MBL Partnership and Graduate Program.
CreatureCast, a collaborative blog produced by members of the Dunn Lab, is supported by a National Science Foundation grant.
Senior Scientist Rudolf Oldenbourg and other MBL-affiliated biologists and physicists revealed their collaborative process to create informative, beautiful images of cell structure and behavior at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting last weekend in Boston, Mass.
Fluorescence image of a living cell (MDCK) expressing septin molecules linked to green fluorescent protein (GFP). The image was recorded with the Fluorescence LC-PolScope and shows fluorescent septin fibers in color, indicating that the fluorescence is polarized and the septin molecules are aligned in the fibers. Credit: Rudolf Oldenbourg/MBL
“We are beginning to understand the basis for cell organization at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution through the creative application of fundamental physics to microscopy,” Gladfelter stated. “This symposium will help motivate the next phase of interdisciplinary approaches to advance the visualization of life, from the scale of a single molecule to the whole organism.”
The data collected in biological images, Gladfelter noted, not only illuminates basic cellular processes, but is useful for medical purposes: to diagnose a metastasizing cancer or microbial infection, for example, or to screen chemical libraries for new pharmaceuticals.
“These images bring us to a beautiful world beyond the grasp of our normal senses,” Gladfelter stated. “In this way microscopes give us beauty and [biological or medical] application, often in the same image.”
The capacity of microscopes to reach beyond the senses is well appreciated by Oldenbourg, who spoke on New Frontiers in Polarized Light Microscopy for Live Cell Imaging. (Oldenbourg’s MBL co-authors are Michael Shribak, Tomomi Tani, and Shinya Inoué.)
“Polarization is a basic property of light that is often overlooked, because the human eye is not sensitive to polarization. Therefore, we don’t have an intuitive understanding of it and optical phenomena that are based on polarization either elude us or we find them difficult to comprehend,” Oldenbourg stated.
“Like most scientific instruments, the polarized light microscope translates polarization effects so they can be perceived by our senses, in this case by our eyes, and makes them amenable to quantitative and analytical analysis. At the MBL, we are developing polarized light imaging techniques, including fluorescence polarization … for generating time-lapse images that clearly reveal the otherwise invisible dynamics of single molecules and molecular assemblies in organelles, cells, and tissues.”
The events of cell division during meiosis I in a living insect spermatocyte, beginning at diakinesis through telophase to the near completion of cytokinesis. Testes from the Crane fly Nephrotoma suturalis were observed with time-lapse liquid crystal polarized light microscopy (LC-PolScope, MBL, Woods Hole MA, and PerkinElmer, Hopkinton MA). Movie images display the naturally occurring birefringence of cell organelles and structures that are made up of aligned molecules, such as the meiotic spindle and mitochondria. Horizontal image width is 56 µm. Credits: James LaFountain and Rudolf Oldenbourg/MBL
Other talks in the symposium included:
Navigating the Dynamic Cell
Jennifer Lippincott-Swartz (National Institutes of Heath/MBL Physiology Course)
Imaging Three-Dimensional Dynamics in Cells and Embryos
Eric Betzig (Howard Hughes Medical Institute/MBL Physiology Course and MBL Neurobiology Course)
Structured Illumination and the Analysis of Single Molecules in Cells
Rainer Heintzmann (King’s College, London)
Imaging Single Cells in the Breast Tumor Microenvironment
John Condeelis (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Single Molecule Imaging in Live Cells
Amy S. Gladfelter (Dartmouth College/MBL Whitman Investigator)
Welcome to @MBL, the official blog of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Our goal is to give you multimedia glimpses of MBL life and science. If you have ideas for or feedback on this blog, we want to hear your comments.