Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Tohoku University

Research Projects

Creative Interdisciplinary Collaboration Program 2020

Assist. Prof. Joji Kusuyama

Title “Fragile!” Provision mechanisms of bioluminescent compounds via food chain in the marine ecosystem
Priod 2021-2022

Our earth is full of light emitted by living organisms (bioluminescence). Especially in the ocean where 76% of animals emit light, bioluminescence plays a variety of roles such as searching for food, courtship, and dazzling predators. However, many luminescent organisms are unable to produce their luminescent molecules. It has been theorized that organisms obtain their luminescence ability by taking in luminescent molecules contained in their food through the food web. However, it seems unlikely that chemically unstable luminescent molecules can be taken up with activity in the process of digestion and absorption, and there have been no empirical studies to support this theory.
Via the analysis of localization of luminescent molecules in predator-prey food webs and the identification of the bioluminescent related-molecules involved in transport and/or storage, we attempt to elucidate the distribution process of bioluminescent molecules in marine ecosystems. Dr. Kudo (Natural Products Chemistry, Organic Chemistry) perform the chemical analysis of the bioluminescent-related molecules using the LC-MS (Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry) and NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance); Dr. Bessho-Uehara (Molecular Biology, Bioluminescent Biochemistry) investigate the function of the bioluminescent-related enzymes and expression level of related genes; Dr. Hagio (Histology, Ichthyology) visualize the localization of the bioluminescent molecules in both the predator and prey. With the multifaceted/multiscale analysis through the cross-disciplinary collaboration, we unveil the “mystery of bioluminescent” in the marine ecosystems.