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

Stires, JC, Latz MI.  2018.  Contribution of the cytoskeleton to mechanosensitivity reported by dinoflagellate bioluminescence. Cytoskeleton. 75:12-21. AbstractWebsite

The cytoskeleton is crucial to cell mechanics and sensing the extracellular physical environment. The objective of this study was to examine the role of the cortical cytoskeleton in mechanosensitivity in a unicellular protist, the marine dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedra, using its intrinsic bioluminescence as a rapid reporter of mechanotransduction. Pharmacological treatments resolved effects due to immediate cytoskeleton disruption from those due to cytoskeletal remodeling during the light to dark phase transition. The cytoskeleton was visualized by confocal laser scanning microscopy of immunohistochemically labeled microtubules and phalloidin labeled F-actin, and mechanosensitivity assessed based on the bioluminescence response to mechanical stimulation measured during the dark phase. Latrunculin B treatment after the transition from the light to dark phase resulted in some disruption of cortical F-actin, no observed effect on the cortical microtubules, and partial inhibition of the bioluminescence response. Treatment with oryzalin, which depolarizes microtubules, completely disrupted the microtubule network and cortical F-actin, and partially inhibited bioluminescence. These results demonstrate that cells retain some mechanosensitivity despite a disrupted cytoskeleton; link mechanosensitivity to intact F-actin; show a close connection between F-actin and microtubules comprising the cortical cytoskeleton; confirm a strong contribution of the actin cytoskeleton to the translocation of scintillons, vesicles containing the luminescent chemistry; and support the role of the actin cytoskeleton in the association of scintillons with the vacuole membrane.

Lindstrom, JB, Pierce NT, Latz MI.  2017.  Role of TRP Channels in dinoflagellate mechanotransduction. Biological Bulletin. 233:151-167. AbstractWebsite

Transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels are common components of mechanosensing pathways, mainly described in mammals and other multicellular organisms. To gain insight into the evolutionary origins of eukaryotic mechanosensory proteins, we investigated the involvement of TRP channels in mechanosensing in a unicellular eukaryotic protist, the dinoflagellate Lingulodiniumpolyedra. BLASTPanalysis of the protein sequences predicted from the L. polyedra transcriptome revealed six sequences with high similarity to human TRPM2, TRPM8, TRPML2, TRPP1, and TRPP2; and characteristic TRP domains were identified in all sequences. In a phylogenetic tree including all mammalian TRP subfamilies and TRP channel sequences from unicellular and multicellular organisms, the L. polyedra sequences grouped with the TRPM, TPPML, and TRPP clades. In pharmacological experiments, we used the intrinsic bioluminescence of L. polyedra as a reporter of mechanoresponsivity. Capsaicin and RN1734, agonists of mammalian TRPV, and arachidonic acid, an agonist of mammalian TRPV, TRPA, TRPM, and Drosophila TRP, all stimulated bioluminescence in L. polyedra. Mechanical stimulation of bioluminescence, but not capsaicinstimulated bioluminescence, was inhibited by gadolinium (Gd3+), a general inhibitor of mechanosensitive ion channels, and the phospholipase C (PLC) inhibitor U73122. These pharmacological results are consistent with the involvement of TRP-like channels in mechanosensing by L. polyedra. The TRP channels do not appear to be mechanoreceptors but rather are components of the mechanotransduction signaling pathway and may be activated via a PLC-dependent mechanism. The presence and function of TRP channels in a dinoflagellate emphasize the evolutionary conservation of both the channel structures and their functions.

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.