Project Title

Evolution of Carbon Transport in Lichens

Name of Award

3M Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant

Date Awarded

5-1-2019

Department/School

Biology

Project Description

Margaret Piecz (Student Researcher, Biology) and Tami McDonald, Assistant Professor of Biology, have received a $5,000 3M Student-Faculty Collaborative Research grant. One of the most important drivers of evolutionary novelty is symbiosis, defined as the living together of unlike organisms. Notable among symbioses are the lichens, which are relationships between a fungus and a photosynthetic organism like a green alga or a cyanobacterium. Despite the prevalence of lichenization as a fungal nutritional lifestyle, the molecular pathways that lichen fungi employ to identify their partners, build a single body with them, and establish a joint metabolism are almost completely unknown.

This project will use genome and transcriptome data from lichens in the genus Peltigera to identify the major carbon transporters facilitating nutrient exchange between the fungal, green algal, and cyanobacterial lichen symbionts. Data from this research will inform future phylogenetic analyses designed to test evolutionary hypotheses about the consequences of specializing on a symbiont-provided carbon source.

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