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Resolving the molecular mechanisms of intracellular coral-algal symbiosis

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






 SYMCELLS project word cloud

Explore the words cloud of the SYMCELLS project. It provides you a very rough idea of what is the project "SYMCELLS" about.

molecular    phagosomes    algal    provision    substitute    sterols    coral    view    reside    distinguish    phagocytosis    fixed    sterol    translocation    habitats    persistence    ecological    cellular    gain    symbiont    generate    reefs    time    symbiosis    dependence    prevailing    sugars    underpinning    culture    anemone    intractable    models    pathogen    corals    functionally    candidate    host    photosynthetically    establishment    assays    phagocytosing    stably    live    cholesterol    organism    pull    destruction    symbionts    unlike    machinery    uncover    expertise    underlying    economically    synthesize    map    significance    nutrient    record    acquisition    manipulation    cnidarians    poor    proteomics    aiptasia    ecosystems    cells    advantages    function    algae    pathogens    intracellular    imaging    leverage    ecologically    receptors    surprisingly    proteins    understand    explore    mechanistic    microbes    acquire    interacting    biological    fundamental    phagolysosomal    nutrients    mechanisms    transport    interactions    metabolic    clearance    animals    phagosome    model    survival    little    many    first    remarkable    integrate    cell   

Project "SYMCELLS" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: 69117

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Germany [DE]
 Total cost 2˙272˙485 €
 EC max contribution 2˙272˙485 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2016-COG
 Funding Scheme ERC-COG
 Starting year 2017
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2017-06-01   to  2022-05-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 


 Project objective

Many cells stably integrate microbes to gain ecological advantages for the organism. A remarkable example is the symbiosis between corals and algae, whose provision of photosynthetically fixed nutrients enables coral survival in nutrient-poor habitats. To establish symbiosis, coral cells acquire symbionts via phagocytosis, a process often used for pathogen clearance in other animals. Symbionts reside in phagosomes, and the prevailing view is that, similar to some pathogens, symbionts avoid destruction via phagolysosomal manipulation. Yet, unlike pathogens, symbionts provide nutrients to their host, and this may be key for intracellular persistence. Most research on nutrient translocation has focused on sugars, but surprisingly, sterols may be significant because cnidarians cannot synthesize cholesterol. However, little is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms of symbiosis establishment. Because corals are intractable cell biological models, I will leverage our unique resources and expertise to uncover fundamental aspects of symbiont acquisition and metabolic dependence using the emerging model anemone Aiptasia. To investigate symbiont acquisition (Objective 1), I will distinguish symbiont-phagocytosing cells, test candidate symbiont receptors by gain- and loss-of-function, record symbiont/cell interactions by live-imaging, and generate a symbiosis cell culture system. To understand the significance of symbiont-derived sterols (Objective 2), I will map cellular sterol utilization and identify the sterol transport machinery, test whether symbiont sterols can functionally substitute cholesterol, identify novel sterol-interacting proteins by pull-down assays, and explore symbiont persistence mechanisms using comparative phagosome proteomics. This proposal will for the first time provide a mechanistic understanding of coral-algal symbiosis establishment, a crucial process underpinning coral reefs, economically and ecologically important ecosystems.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Marie R. Jacobovitz, Sebastian Rupp, Philipp A. Voss, Sebastian G. Gornik, Annika Guse
Dinoflagellate symbionts escape vomocytosis by host cell immune suppression
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI: 10.1101/864579
2018 Victor A. S. Jones, Madeline Bucher, Elizabeth A. Hambleton, Annika Guse
Microinjection to deliver protein, mRNA, and DNA into zygotes of the cnidarian endosymbiosis model Aiptasia sp.
published pages: , ISSN: 2045-2322, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-34773-1
Scientific Reports 8/1 2019-05-27
2018 Elizabeth Hambleton, Arnold Shivas Jones, Ira Maegele, David Kvaskoff, Timo Sachsenheimer, Annika Guse
Enhanced Stability of Non-Canonical NPC2 in the symbiosome supports coral-algal symbiosis
published pages: , ISSN: , DOI: 10.1101/399766

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