Paralvinella sulfincola is a polychaete worm indigenous to hydrothermal vents, and may be the most thermotolerant animal on Earth. In recent years, with the onset of increasing atmospheric temperatures, there has been a renewed interest in organismal thermotolerance. Indeed, one of the driving ecological questions today concerns biological response to environmental stressors such as temperature. The overarching goal of this project is two-fold: (A) to identify the factor(s) that confer extreme thermal tolerance in the polychaete P. sulfincola, and (B) to better understand what ultimately limits thermal tolerance in all metazoans. To date, no study has examined global gene expression—or differences in expression—among thermotolerant organisms maintained in different thermal regimes. Moreover, our understanding of why all organisms are restricted to temperatures below 55-60°C is in its infancy. By pairing physiologic measurements in P. sulfincola worms at 30°C and 56°C with expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from each condition, this sequencing project would provide the first such data, and would enable other investigators to examine differences between P. sulfincola and other model organisms typically used to study physiological thermal tolerance.
Principal Investigators: Peter Girguis (Harvard Univ.) and Stephane Hourdez (Station Biologique de Roscoff, France)
Program: CSP 2009