Tony De Tomaso, University of California, Santa Barbaray

BOTRYLLUS – AN INVERTEBRATE CHORDATE MODEL OF IMMUNOLOGY, STEM CELL BIOLOGY, REGENERATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Botryllus schlosseri is a colonial tunicate; invertebrate chordates that straddle the divide between invertebrates and vertebrates. The unique life history of Botryllus allows studies in multiple fields, including immunology, stem cell biology and regeneration, and developmental biology.

The Question(s)

Our lab works at the intersection of immunology, stem cell biology and regeneration using the marine basal chordate, Botryllus schlosseri as a model. Unique biological features of Botryllus, including a natural transplantation reaction, parasitic germline stem cells, and a colonial life history that includes regeneration of all somatic and germline tissues on a weekly basis, allow novel approaches for studies in each of these fields. In turn, results from those studies have allowed us to explore new fields, including angiogenesis, mechanotransduction and aging. Botryllus has a wealth of biology ripe for experimentation, and our overall goal is to utilize these unique features and carry out innovative, interdisciplinary research.

The Model

Botryllus is a tunicate, marine species that begins its life as swimming chordate tadpole larvae, which later metamorphoses into a invertebrate body. Botryllus is also colonial, and belongs to a subset of tunicates that grown, not by getting bigger, but by regenerating entire bodies, including all somatic and germline tissues, resulting in a colony of genetically identical individuals. In Botryllus, this regeneration occurs every week, allowing us to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie regeneration of multiple organs and tissues. A powerful feature of this model organism is that pieces of a colony can be separated and will continue to grow, allowing us to study the same individual in multiple experiments, or as a single individual ages. Other unique characteristics of the Botryllus life history allow studies in multiple disciplines.