Gene Transfer from Algea to Sea Slug

Posted February 5, 2015

by Lensyl Urbano

The sea slug. "Elysia pusilla" by Katharina Händeler, Yvonne P. Grzymbowski, Patrick J. Krug & Heike Wägele - Händeler K., Grzymbowski Y. P., Krug P. J. & Wägele H. (2009) "Functional chloroplasts in metazoan cells - a unique evolutionary strategy in animal life". Frontiers in Zoology 6: 28. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-6-28 Figure 1F.. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The sea slug. “Elysia pusilla” by Katharina Händeler, Yvonne P. Grzymbowski, Patrick J. Krug & Heike Wägele – Händeler K., Grzymbowski Y. P., Krug P. J. & Wägele H. (2009) “Functional chloroplasts in metazoan cells – a unique evolutionary strategy in animal life”. Frontiers in Zoology 6: 28. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-6-28 Figure 1F.. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

One of my students wanted to figure out how to make animals photosynthesize. Well, this article indicates that sea slugs have figured out how eat and digest the algae but keep the algal chloroplasts alive in their guts so the sea slug can use the fats and carbohydrates the chloroplasts produce (the stealing of the algal organelles is called kleptoplasty). To maintain the chloroplasts, the slugs have actually had to incorporate some of the algae DNA into their own chromosomes–this is called horizontal gene transfer and it’s what scientists try to do with gene therapies.

More details here.

Magnification ?.

Filamentous algae like the ones eaten by the sea slugs.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2015. Gene Transfer from Algea to Sea Slug, Retrieved May 27th, 2017, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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