Nicole King – Bacteria as master regulators and aphrodisiacs

Photos by Alison Yin / AP Images for HHMI

Photos by Alison Yin / AP Images for HHMI

“Bacteria as Master Regulators and Aphrodisiacs”
Nicole King, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; University of California, Berkeley

Friday, July 15, 2016, 8 – 9pm
Lillie Auditorium
Lectures are free and open to the public.

Introduction by Julie Huber, Associate Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory

Lecture abstract:

The first animals evolved in oceans dominated by bacteria, and bacteria continue to shape the biology of all animals, including ourselves. What types of biological processes are regulated by bacterial cues? How do these interactions work? How did they first evolve? And who is really in charge? An enigmatic group of marine organisms called choanos may hold the key to many of these questions. Choanos, the closest living relatives of animals, have a fascinating life history that includes the development of multicellular, embryo-like rosettes and the production of gametes that fuse and mate. Dr. King will describe how molecules produced by environmental bacteria act as master regulators and aphrodisiacs, by triggering rosette development and mating. These bacterial cues can act from afar, and the choanos are seemingly at their mercy. Are animals such as ourselves similarly attuned to the bacterial molecules in which they are bathed?

Dr. Nicole King is a Professor of Genetics, Genomics, and Development at the University of California, Berkeley and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Her lab seeks to reconstruct the origin of animals and elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which bacteria influence eukaryotic biology. Dr. King’s research has lead to the establishment of choanos, the closest living relatives of animals, as experimentally tractable organisms for the molecular, cellular, and genomics era. Dr. King received a B.S. from Indiana University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University before performing postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 2003. Dr. King has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Pew Fellowship in the Biomedical Sciences, the George A. Bartholomew Award for research in comparative physiology, and an honorary degree from Lehigh University. She is a Senior Fellow in the Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. She has taught in summer courses at the MBL for most of the last 15 years.