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Reindert Nijland - MinION in the marine environment: from identifying tetrodotoxin producers to tracing sharks and rays using eDNA

London Calling 2018

We study marine ecology using molecular biology. In recent years, every summer the neurotoxic Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is found in Dutch mussels and oysters, exceeding levels allowed for human consumption. TTX is produced by bacteria, and accumulates in the animal host. The gene cluster encoding TTX biosynthesis is unknown, and the microbial source of the Dutch TTX outbreak is not identified. We therefore isolated metagenomic DNA from TTX positive shellfish and used nanopore sequencing to identify TTX producing microorganisms and their TTX biosynthetic gene clusters. In another project we survey marine biodiversity. Offshore wind farms in the North Sea are assumed to attract large marine animals, since they provide a diverse habitat with increased biodiversity and shelter. Using a mobile sequencing laboratory, we aim to amplify and sequence environmental DNA (eDNA) directly on-site, to investigate the presence of large marine animals such as sharks and rays. Both applications demonstrate the opportunities of mobile, real-time, long-read sequencing enabled by the MinION.

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