Research Biologist

Welcome to the Latz Laboratory

We are a marine biology laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography specializing in bioluminescence, with two goals:

  • UNDERSTAND how marine organisms interact with their environment
  • DISSEMINATE our knowledge to the scientific and public communities
Visit our lab web site for more information about our research, bioluminescence, lab members, publications, facilities, and current news.

Recent Publications

Deane, GB, Stokes DM, Latz MI.  2016.  Bubble stimulation efficiency of dinoflagellate bioluminescence. Luminescence. 31:270-280. Abstract

Dinoflagellate bioluminescence, a common source of bioluminescence in coastal waters, is stimulated by flow agitation. Although bubbles are anecdotally known to be stimulatory, the process has never been experimentally investigated. This study quantified the flash response of the bioluminescent dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedrum to stimulation by bubbles rising through still seawater. Cells were stimulated by isolated bubbles of 0.3–3 mm radii rising at their terminal velocity, and also by bubble clouds containing bubbles of 0.06–10 mm radii for different air flow rates. Stimulation efficiency, the proportion of cells producing a flash within the volume of water swept out by a rising bubble, decreased with decreasing bubble radius for radii less than approximately 1 mm. Bubbles smaller than a critical radius in the range 0.275–0.325 mm did not stimulate a flash response. The fraction of cells stimulated by bubble clouds was proportional to the volume of air in the bubble cloud, with lower stimulation levels observed for clouds with smaller bubbles. An empirical model for bubble cloud stimulation based on the isolated bubble observations successfully reproduced the observed stimulation by bubble clouds for low air flow rates. High air flow rates stimulated more light emission than expected, presumably because of additional fluid shear stress associated with collective buoyancy effects generated by the high air fraction bubble cloud. These results are relevant to bioluminescence stimulation by bubbles in two-phase flows, such as in ship wakes, breaking waves, and sparged bioreactors. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Tesson, B, Latz MI.  2015.  Mechanosensitivity of a rapid bioluminescence reporter system assessed by atomic force microscopy. Biophysical Journal. 108:1341-1351. AbstractWebsite

Cells are sophisticated integrators of mechanical stimuli that lead to physiological, biochemical, and genetic responses. The bioluminescence of dinoflagellates, alveolate protists that use light emission for predator defense, serves as a rapid noninvasive whole-cell reporter of mechanosensitivity. In this study, we used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to explore the relationship between cell mechanical properties and mechanosensitivity in live cells of the dinoflagellate Pyrocystis lunula. Cell stiffness was 0.56 MPa, consistent with cells possessing a cell wall. Cell response depended on both the magnitude and velocity of the applied force. At the maximum stimulation velocity of 390 mu m s(-1), the threshold response occurred at a force of 7.2 mu N, resulting in a contact time of 6.1 ms and indentation of 2.1 mu m. Cells did not respond to a low stimulation velocity of 20 mu m s(-1), indicating a velocity dependent response that, based on stress relaxation experiments, was explained by the cell viscoelastic properties. This study demonstrates the use of AFM to study mechanosensitivity in a cell system that responds at fast timescales, and provides insights into how viscoelastic properties affect mechanosensitivity. It also provides a comparison with previous studies using hydrodynamic stimulation, showing the discrepancy in cell response between direct compressive forces using AFM and those within flow fields based on average flow properties.

Jin, K, Klima JC, Deane G, Dale Stokes M, Latz MI.  2013.  Pharmacological investigation of the bioluminescence signaling pathway of the dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedrum: evidence for the role of stretch-activated ion channels. Journal of Phycology. 49:733-745. AbstractWebsite

Dinoflagellate bioluminescence serves as a whole-cell reporter of mechanical stress, which activates a signaling pathway that appears to involve the opening of voltage-sensitive ion channels and release of calcium from intracellular stores. However, little else is known about the initial signaling events that facilitate the transduction of mechanical stimuli. In the present study using the red tide dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedrum (Stein) Dodge, two forms of dinoflagellate bioluminescence, mechanically stimulated and spontaneous flashes, were used as reporter systems to pharmacological treatments that targeted various predicted signaling events at the plasma membrane level of the signaling pathway. Pretreatment with 200 μM Gadolinium III (Gd3+), a nonspecific blocker of stretch-activated and some voltage-gated ion channels, resulted in strong inhibition of both forms of bioluminescence. Pretreatment with 50 μM nifedipine, an inhibitor of L-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels that inhibits mechanically stimulated bioluminescence, did not inhibit spontaneous bioluminescence. Treatment with 1 mM benzyl alcohol, a membrane fluidizer, was very effective in stimulating bioluminescence. Benzyl alcohol-stimulated bioluminescence was inhibited by Gd3+ but not by nifedipine, suggesting that its role is through stretch activation via a change in plasma membrane fluidity. These results are consistent with the presence of stretch-activated and voltage-gated ion channels in the bioluminescence mechanotransduction signaling pathway, with spontaneous flashing associated with a stretch-activated component at the plasma membrane.