We are a research group focusing on protistology.
We study the diversity and evolution of anaerobic protists at Faculty of Science, Charles University.
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Life without oxygen
Our main activity is to study anaerobic organisms – those living in oxygen-depleted habitats ranging from muddy ponds and river deltas over estuaries and marine sediments to the gut of various animals. Anaerobic organisms are often primarily understood as anaerobic prokaryotes (apart from the rare anaerobic metazoans), the bacteria and archaea of undeniable ecological and economical importance. But in fact, decades of research show that hypoxic and anoxic environments host a great amount of unicellular eukaryotic life - PROTISTS. These unicellular eukaryotes play a crucial role in the main biogeochemical cycles on this planet. And yet, the diversity and role of protists in anoxic habitats is still understudied and often underestimated.
Various adaptations, such as reduced mitochondria, modified metabolic pathways, and plentiful symbiotic relationships allow anaerobic protists to thrive in rather extreme habitats – muds full of methane, marine sediments loaded with hydrogen sulphide, or intestinal tracts of ruminants and other animals. In our laboratory, we are able to establish long-term cultures of anaerobic protists from various groups and maintain their symbiotic relationships with methanogenic archaea, sulphate reducing bacteria and other prokaryotes. That gives us a great tool for studying their evolution, diversity, relationships, and host specificity.
Exploring the world of protists
We are studying new deep lineages or protists that we have discovered and constantly search for other uncharted life of free-living protists and those living as endosymbionts of animals, mostly cockroaches. We explore their relationships with prokaryotic ecto- and endosymbionts, study the host-specificity and the mechanisms of connection, using molecular methods, light microscopy and fluorescent probes, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy techniques.
In our lab, we are interested in many groups of anaerobic protists such as anaerobic ciliates from the SAL group (Spirotrichea, Armophorea, and Litostomatea), anaerobic scuticociliates (Oligohymenophorea, Scuticociliatia), anaerobic excavates (from Heterolobosea, Preaxostyla, Fornicata, Parabasalia, Jakobida), anaerobic amoebozoans, stramenopiles, and cercozoans.
Over the years, we have established the largest collection of anaerobic protists in the world and currently maintain several hundred species of various protist groups.