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vitale lauraPhD Student SZN-OU
Section EMI

Tel. +39 081 5833201
Fax: +39 081 7641355
e-mail laura.vitale(at)szn.it

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Research interests

The aim of my PhD project is to investigate the molecular basis involved in the sex determination system of marine diatoms.
Diatoms are unicellular eukaryotic microalgae playing a key role in the functioning of our planet and with considerable biotechnological potential. The de novo sequencing of their genomes, the availability of RNAseq data and other molecular tools enable now the investigation of mechanisms that determine sex in microalgae.
Various genomic sex-determining regions, either sex chromosomes or mating-types loci, have been detected in animal, plants and fungi, but little is known for unicellular microalgae.
Sexual reproduction is a fundamental phase in the life cycle of diatoms, linked to the production of genotypic diversity and the formation of large-sized initial cells that ensure population persistence. It occurs only within cells below a threshold size and, in heterothallic diatoms, only between strains of opposite mating types.
My project is focused on the model marine planktonic species Pseudo-nitzschia multistriata, recorded in coastal waters worldwide and producer of the neurotoxin domoic acid, for which a reference genome has been generated and transcriptomes have been produced for strains of opposite mating type (MT+ and MT-). The general objective is the identification of a series of mating type-related genes and the mating type locus through the application of genetic and genomic approaches.  
This study will contribute to a better understanding of the regulation and evolution of diatom life cycles and reproductive strategies. It could also provide molecular markers to trace the distribution of MT+ and MT- cells in environmental samples.

Journal Papers

Ciniglia, C., Yang, E. C., Pollio, A., Pinto, G., Iovinella, M., Vitale, L., Yoon, H. S. (2014). Cyanidiophyceae in Iceland: the plastid rbcL gene elucidates the origin and dispersal of extremophilic Galdieria sulphuraria and G. maxima (Rhodophyta). Phycologia: 2014, Vol. 53, No. 6, pp. 542-551.

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