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Biology student wins best oral presentation at international jellyfish conference

Alorah Bliese, a Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences MS student, won the award at the 6th International Jellyfish Conference in South Africa.

Posted in: Awards & Recognition, Biology, Marine Biology, Research

Alorah Bliese being awarded best student oral presentation
Alorah Bliese receiving best student oral presentation at the 6th International Jellyfish Conference

Alorah’s presentation, Comparative transcriptomic identification of venom proteins in the clinging jellyfish Gonionemus vertens was conducted in conjunction with Drs. Paul Bologna and John Gaynor, Professors in the department of Biology.

Project Abstract

Although native to the Pacific Ocean, the clinging jellyfish, Gonionemus vertens, has invaded numerous locations globally. The medusae are small (25-mm bell dia.) but can possess potent stings that can lead to systemic pain and disrupted neurocognitive function. They are typically found in eelgrass beds during the summer months when the population peaks, thus they pose a substantial seasonal public health concern. To explore the nature of this species’ toxic sting, transcriptome libraries were constructed from poly A+ mRNA isolated from five individuals and sequenced on an Illumina Mi-Seq platform. Raw RNA-seq data were assembled de novo using Trinity and assembly quality was verified via BUSCO analysis. The resulting transcriptome was annotated with DIAMOND and contigs were aligned against existing databases using BLASTx. Comparative bioinformatic strategies were employed to identify putative venom proteins falling into broad categories such as phospholipases, metalloproteases, C-type lectins, disintegrins, and kunitz-type protease inhibitors—a cocktail of proteins connected to the observed physiological symptoms of envenomation. Continued analysis of venom may clarify the potential human health threat these invaders pose, lead to improved treatment options for sting victims, and provide inspiration for the design and development of novel pharmaceuticals targeting pain and neurological disorders.

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