Areas of Research

Take a look at what we’re working on…

Current Projects

In Monir lab, we employ lab experiments, field-research and bioinformatic approaches to pursue several major research directions:

screen reader text

  1. Algal blooms as ecological laboratories to study the dynamics of giant virus – host interactions: Previous research has demonstrated that giant viruses are a key component of several algal blooms, which includes ecologically devastating brown tide blooms and massive blooms that are visible from space. Our lab aims to generate a system-level understanding of the contribution of giant viruses in modulating such algal blooms and how they influence the dynamics of key protist lineages in marine systems. To this end, our lab will study several distinct algal blooms that have appeared recurrently at the US coasts for decades – specifically, the red tide in the Gulf of Mexico caused by toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, and the brown tide blooms in the east coast by pelagophyte Aureococcus anophagefferens.

screen reader text

2. Deciphering the molecular underpinnings of ‘virocell’ metabolism: A ‘virocell’ is a conceptual framework that emphasizes the fact that lytic viral infection remodels the physiology of a host cell. Viral lysis of numerous microbial taxa can modulate the nutrient flux within the marine microbiome and also contributes to the efficiency of the biological carbon pump. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of virocell metabolism is therefore crucial for evaluating the contribution of viruses to the global. In eukaryotic cells, the presence of large genomes and distinct organelles result in a highly complex physiological landscape that viruses must rewire for successful propagation. Additionally, giant viruses often encode a large number of metabolic genes. However, there is only limited information on the precise role of these genes in manipulating the nutrient flux, energy and carbon metabolism of infected host cells. In our lab, we will investigate the molecular remodeling of the virocell, and the role of giant virus-encoded metabolic genes leveraging the existing host-virus systems already available in culture.

screen reader text

3. Assessing the impact of endogenous giant viruses on the physiology and genome evolution of their eukaryotic hosts: Endogenous viral elements (EVEs)—viral sequences that integrate into host genomes and eventually become heritable as host alleles—can spur host genome rearrangement, functional innovations, and mediate horizontal gene transfer (HGT). In our recent work, we have identified widespread endogenization of NCLDV genomes in diverse green algae. These Giant Endogenous Viral Elements (GEVEs) are several hundred kilobases long and contribute up to 10% of the total genes in some of the chlorophyte genomes in which they are integrated. In future work, we plan to develop a foundational understanding of the role endogenous NCLDVs play in the genome evolution, physiology and phenotypic diversity of protists