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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.

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

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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