Featured project: Photosynthetic Sea Slugs

In my PhD research, I try to understand how photosynthetic sea slugs, such as Elysia timida, can steal chloroplasts from their prey algae and keep them photosynthetically active inside their cells. I’ve been focusing on comparing the photosynthetic performance of the chloroplasts in their native environment (i.e. inside the algae) vs. inside slug cells. So far, I’ve been able to show that the slugs alter the functionality of the chloroplasts to alleviate excessive oxidative damage that is inevitably linked to the redox chemistry of chloroplasts (1). With the help of Cell Imaging and Cytometry core, I will delve into this in more detail, including evaluating tissue-specific reactive oxygen species production in response to different light conditions in the slugs.

I’m also very excited about a new project where we will investigate the peculiar full-body regeneration from isolated slugs heads. This was originally discovered by our collaborators in Japan (2), but we are in a special position here in Turku, as we have continuous cultures of these photosynthetic sea slugs and all the amazing imaging facilities just next door. This allows us to record the regeneration process in unprecedented detail, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we find out along the way.


1 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33077025/

2 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33689716/


Author info:

Vesa Havurinne, MSc. Doctoral Student, Esa Tyystjärvi Group

Molecular Plant Biology, University of Turku


Imaging info:

If you have an idea or questions about a microscopy project get in touch with CIC staff at microscopy [at] bioscience.fi

or visit: https://bioscience.fi/cic