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

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.

Latz, MI, Rohr J.  2013.  Bathyphotometer bioluminescence potential measurements: A framework for characterizing flow agitators and predicting flow-stimulated bioluminescence intensity. Continental Shelf Research. 61–62:71-84. AbstractWebsite

Bathyphotometer measurements of bioluminescence are used as a proxy for the abundance of luminescent organisms for studying population dynamics; the interaction of luminescent organisms with physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic processes; and spatial complexity especially in coastal areas. However, the usefulness of bioluminescence measurements has been limited by the inability to compare results from different bathyphotometer designs, or even the same bathyphotometer operating at different volume flow rates. The primary objective of this study was to compare measurements of stimulated bioluminescence of four species of cultured dinoflagellates, the most common source of bioluminescence in coastal waters, using two different bathyphotometer flow agitators as a function of bathyphotometer volume flow rate and dinoflagellate concentration. For both the NOSC and BIOLITE flow agitators and each species of dinoflagellate tested, there was a critical volume flow rate, above which average bioluminescence intensity, designated as bathyphotometer bioluminescence potential (BBP), remained relatively constant and scaled directly with dinoflagellate cell concentration. At supra-critical volume flow rates, the ratio of BIOLITE to NOSC BBP was nearly constant for the same species studied, but varied between species. The spatial pattern and residence time of flash trajectories within the NOSC flow agitator indicated the presence of dominant secondary recirculating flows, where most of the bioluminescence was detected. A secondary objective (appearing in the Appendix) was to study the feasibility of using NOSC BBP to scale flow-stimulated bioluminescence intensity across similar flow fields, where the contributing composition of luminescent species remained the same. Fully developed turbulent pipe flow was chosen because it is hydrodynamically well characterized. Average bioluminescence intensity in a 2.54-cm i.d. pipe was highly correlated with wall shear stress and BBP. This correlation, when further scaled by pipe diameter, effectively predicted bioluminescence intensity in fully developed turbulent flow in a 0.83-cm i.d. pipe. Determining similar correlations between other bathyphotometer flow agitators and flow fields will allow bioluminescence potential measurements to become a more powerful tool for the oceanographic community.