La Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria busca empresas para el desarrollo de su proyecto COST - (Phycomorph)

Lunes, 16 Julio, 2012

Advancing seaweed development: from molecules to morphology (Phycomorph)

Preliminary Proposal Reference oc-2012-1-11407
Proposer Details
Title: Prof. Gender: M
Forename: Rafael ESR: NO
Family Name: Robaina Romero Resubmission: NO
Year of Birth: 1962
Institution: Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Position Full professor
Contact Address : Juan de Quesada 30
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 35001
Scientific Content

Advancing seaweed development: from molecules to morphology (Phycomorph)

Abstract: If they become an easy-growing crop, seaweeds will be an alternative and additional source of livelihood for humans. The objective of this ACTION is to develop a European interdisciplinary platform (PHYCOMORPH)
where unique expertises are integrated to meet the challenges of (1) filling the gaps of basic research on
seaweed development, to (2) subsequently transfer this knowledge into new seaweed culturing techniques.
Consequently, PHYCOMORPH addresses 4 scientific tasks: GERM CELL RELEASE AND FUSION (understanding chemo-attraction), EMBRYO FATE (understanding germination), GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT (understanding morphogenetic patterns), INDUCTION OF THE REPRODUCTIVE PHASE (understanding fertility). To support these biological tasks, PHYCOMORPH is organized in 5 technical working groups, aiming at (i) improving cultures, (ii) challenging genetics, (iii) improving high-throughput methods, (iv) identifying infochemicals and (v) fully exploiting cell-biology technologies for seaweeds.

Key Words: algal cultivation, aquaculture, cell biology, cell differentiation, chemosphere, developmental biology,
embryogenesis, genomics, infochemicals, life cycle control, macroalgal-bacterial interactions, marine biology,
metabolomics, morphogenes, ontogenesis, organogenesis, phycosphere, plant hormones, cell proliferation,
phycology, proteomics, transcriptomics, seaweed

Preferred COST Domain: Food and Agriculture

Text of proposal:

Current state of knowledge: Importance of macroalgae
Marine macroalgae, commonly known as "seaweeds", are key primary producers representing an untapped
resource of food, bioenergy and biopharmaceuticals. They growth in the sea, which eases pressure on land,
fertilizer and freshwater resources. Moreover, macroalgae produces more biomass per m2 than land plants. As
industrial crops, algae are an excellent low-fat source of proteins and vitamins/minerals. Their extracts are
used in preparing foods, cosmetics and medicines. Cultivation of red and brown algae occurs in continental
Europe, with Norway and France as the region's largest algal producers. The Irish seaweed industry currently
turns over around !10 million per year. Macroalgae are also used in environmental phytoremediation,
absorbing excess nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals from water. Sulfated galactans and other chemicals
isolated from marine macroalgae have potential benefits to human health: preliminary studies report
compounds with antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticoagulant and antiproliferative

Problematic knowledge gaps
The CORDIS database shows the importance of algae in funded European research programs. From the
beginning of the COST action scientific and technical cooperation has been used to promote the use of marine
plant biomass (1995-99). While some specialised projects aimed to use seaweeds as fertilizers (2FP-ECLAIR),
sources of iodine (ANIS, 4FP-FAIR), sources of biosorptive susbtances (4FP, BRITE / EURAM 3),
anti-inflammatories (SWAFAX, FP7-SME) and phycocolloids (HYFFI, FP7-SME), the latest projects assess
macroalgae as potential biofuels (Seaweed biofuels for anaerobic AD SEAWEED, FP7-PEOPLE, Seaweed for
fuel MABFUEL, FP7-PEOPLE). This increasing interest in seaweed biomass by societies and industries
creates a pressing need to improve our knowledge of the biological mechanisms controlling seaweed
development, including reproduction, germination, growth and morphogenesis. However, to date, basic
research on algal development is fragmented across a few research facilities (~ 20 worldwide), with research
groups addressing different biological issues (morphogenesis, reproduction) using different experimental
approaches (from genomics and genetics to cell biology and metabolomics) on different organisms (green, red
and brown seaweeds). In addition, despite the advent of high-thoughput genomics in phycology (the first
green and brown algal genomes were published in 2010), the great evolutionary distance between seaweed
types (1.6 billion years) does not make experimental techniques readily transferable between organisms. This
lack of information is detrimental to future biotechnological exploitation of seaweeds.
Therefore, the objective of our COST proposal is to make for the first time a network connection between
these groups, to (i) dynamise the field of basic research on seaweed development, and (ii) subsequently
translate this knowledge into new seaweed culturing techniques and wider use of seaweeds for societal benefit.
Direct beneficiaries of the network are aquaculture enterprises and previously funded scientific networks that
concentrate on growing seaweeds for biofuel, human consumption, animal feed, food technology,
pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Integrated multitrophic aquaculture (IMTA, NFS Marine Biotch) will benefit
from fundamental understanding of algal development resulting from this Action, which consequently will
become an integral part of coastal regulatory and management frameworks. The Action will promote further
worldwide exchanges in core expertise in aquaculture and fundamental algal developmental biology.

The principal objective of the Action is to improve and broaden existing knowledge on seaweed growth and
development. This will arise from a combination of academic expertise in the different processes required for
seaweed development, and of complementary technical tools specific for seaweeds. As a result, the Action
will ultimately be able to depict an integrative view of seaweed development, using cell, genetics, molecular
biology and chemistry data, leading to (i) new breakthroughs in understanding morphogenesis and growth of
seaweeds and (ii) ultimately contributing to this emerging field of marine aquaculture.
This will be accomplished by:
1. Providing an improved scientific understanding of fundamental algal development by combining the
expertise of individual, high-skilled research groups (see Scientific Programme for details).
2. Identifying the bottlenecks that impede further development of a longterm sustainable algal aquaculture (see
Scientific programme).
3. Training a next generation of innovative and interdisciplinary researchers by organising short term scientific
missions (STSMs), workshops and summer schools.
4. Strengthening the mutually beneficial interactions and collaboration between academic research and
5. Providing open workshops, such as "Advances in preparation of unialgal and axenic macroalgal
cultivation", "Functional genomic approaches for macroalgae" and "Cross-kingdom interactions between
macroalgae and bacteria", will bring together the scattered expertise in the scientific community.
The state-of-the-art indicates that we must advance the understanding of the different steps seaweeds go
through during their morphogenesis and development, by identifying the molecular factors that control these
TASK 1: GERM CELL RELEASE AND FUSION. Chemical and molecular factors involved in male and
female gamete chemotaxis and fusion (secretion of pheromones, cell surface recognition-and fusion proteins)
are scarcely known and their identification will contribute to a better control of both in vitro and
cross-fertilisation necessary to produce genetically improved generations of seaweeds. TASK 2: EMBRYO
FATE. Algal development depends on the commitment of the zygote and embryo to a specific developmental
program initiated immediately after fertilisation. The knowledge of both the underlying genetic program, and
the cellular and molecular mechanisms specifically involved at this stage will contribute to the control of
seaweed germination and early development. TASK 3: GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT. Understanding
the morphogenetic pattern (including cell division, elongation, differentiation and programmed cell death) will
enable definition of developmental checkpoints, which will be targets for controlled production of seaweed
biomass by vegetative growth and sub-culturing. To what extent external bacterial morphogens are implicated
in seaweed morphogenesis will be a specific focus. TASK 4: INDUCTION OF THE REPRODUCTIVE
PHASE. Shift of the vegetative seaweed to a fertile stage is the bottleneck in seaweed life cycle. Identifying
the genetic and chemical factors involved in this process will allow to timely control in the production of
seaweed biomass.


Phycomorph is organized in 5 WORKING GROUPS (WG), which are structured according to the

experimental approaches that need developing to complete the scientific TASKS. Each WG is coordinated by
one or two different partners committed in different TASKS, ensuring a tight connection between partners
within the Action.
WG 1: THE CULTIVATION CORE: The majority of cultivable algae to date are microalgae. This Action will
(i) establish unialgal cultures of macroalgae and (ii) develop novel protocols to achieve bacteria-free cultures.
This improved scientific understanding of algal growth will overcome bottlenecks for aquaculture and also
provide standardized experimental designs for the scientific community. WG 2: TOWARDS A GENETIC
ALGAL MODEL SYSTEM: Inspired by the use of molecular biology in higher plants, we will PROGRESS
identify target macroalgae and cell types (e.g. germ cells), which might be preferentially transformable. WG 3:
THE TRANSCRIPTOMICS/PROTEOMICS CORE will implement transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of
macroalgae including systematic data analysis. Current research acknowledges that static genetic approaches
identify and explain only a fraction of phenotypes. Gene- (both at the transcription and the translation levels)
and epigenetic signatures will be related to development and morphogenesis of macroalgae in response to e.g.
environmental parameters and culture conditions (bacteria-free versus non bacteria-free growth). WG 4: THE
CHEMICAL CORE will identify morphogenetic compounds, closing the gap between well-established
approaches in phycology and supervised chemical analysis. Metabolic profiling (fingerprinting of the
exo/endo metabolome) will be the method of choice to address specific questions about
infochemical-mediated morphogenesis/development of macroalgae. These approaches are particularly useful
in the current absence of well-established molecular tools (WG2). Using a combination of a "bioassay-guided"
approach and metabolic profiling will identify diffusible molecules e.g. those released by bacteria to enable
correct morphogenesis. WG 5: THE CELL BIOLOGY CORE: Checkpoints of morphogenesis will be
identified at the cell level, using state-of-the-art imaging, in situ hybridization, immunolocalisation and
laser-mediated microdissection. Cell biology data will complement the "omics" data obtained from WG 3 and
4 in order to depict a precise qualitative spatio-temporal expression pattern of genes/proteins/metabolites
during the different steps of seaweed development.
At present, research support for each task is largely from existing funds to members, from national programs.
This proposal requests funds for networking and communication between partners, and with the wider
macroalgal research community.

Participants interested in network:
1-. Rafael Robaina Romero, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, ES
2-. Bénédicte Charrier, Station Biologique Roscoff, FR
3-. Thomas Wichard, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, DE
4-. Olivier De Clerck, Universiteit Gent, BE
5-. Juliet Coates, University of Birmingham, UK
6-. Christos Katsaros, University of Athens, EL
7-. Jane Langdale, University of Oxford, UK
8-. Bruno de Reviers, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle Département Systématique et évolution , FR
9-. Stefan Rensing, University of Freiburg, DE

Las empresas interesadas en participar en el desarrollo del proyecto pueden contactar en el siguiente correo electrónico: o el teléfono: 928 45 29 04