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Ashley Burton - Protistan Ecology

University of Maryland Baltimore County, MD

Fate of Toxins in the Dinoflagellate, Alexandrium tamarense,
during Parasitism by
Amoebophrya sp.

Ashley Burton (UMBC) examined the fate of toxins in the dinoflagellate, Alexandrium tamarense, during the course of parasitism by Amoebophrya sp.  She considered several hypotheses: (1) the parasite consumes the dinoflagellate toxins, (2) the parasite does not consume the host toxins, but retains them intracellularly, and/or (3) the parasite does not consume or package the toxins intracellularly.  The toxins are released into the medium when the parasite emerges from and destroys the host cell.  Ashley was trained on how to prepare growth medium and to maintain the host and parasites in culture.  She was also taught how to preserved and enumerate host and parasite cells.  During her experiments, she collected and processed samples independently for enumeration and toxin analysis.  Later, she used quantitative protargol staining (QPS) to identify and enumerate infected and uninfected cells.  The results of this work will provide insight on how Amoebophrya sp. can influence the toxin content of toxic, bloom-forming species like A. tamarense.  This work may also provide information on whether the toxins can be reduced, released or re-packaged within the parasite cell, making them available to grazers of the parasite.  On a practical level, this research may also show the potential impacts of introducing this parasite to control A. tamarense in nature with respect to the possible fate or fates of the toxins contained within the host.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation – Research Experience for
Undergraduates (REU)