Science Serving Maryland's Coasts


The molecular basis for the etiology of the oyster "Dermo" disease: Gene regulation events susceptible to chemical inhibition.

Principal Investigator: 

Gerardo R. Vasta

Start/End Year: 

1995 to 1998


Center of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute



Our research program is directed at understanding the host-parasite interaction that exists between the eastern oyster C. virginica and the protozoan parasite P. marinus ("Dermo") by identifying genetic and molecular events that are critical for P. marinus, host specificity, hemocyte entry, intracellular survival and proliferation. Our progress to date has: described the inhibitory effect of iron chelators on P. marinus' growth rates; demonstrated a stimulation of growth rates in the presence of exogenous glycoproteins; and established the optimal conditions for P. marinus culture. We plan to develop molecular strategies targeted to blocking host recognition mechanisms, and the parasite's ability to enter and successfully replicate and proliferate throughout the body of its host. We will focus on identifying the constituents of the oyster's intracellular environment that most directly influence the rate at which P. marinus can replicate and establish its high infection titer, as well as determining the molecular adaptations P. marinus utilizes to avoid intracellular destruction within the hemocytes of its host.