ORCID Identifier(s)

ORCID 0009-0000-2590-1110

Graduation Semester and Year

Spring 2024



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology



First Advisor

Laura Mydlarz


Intracellular photosymbiosis with Symbiodiniaceae is facilitated by cnidarian immunity as it is required for symbiont recognition and is subsequently suppressed to maintain stable intracellular symbiosis. To date, it is unclear how the cnidarian-Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis influences immune gene repertoires, immune gene expression, and disease pathology across its independent evolutions. To address these knowledge gaps, my dissertation approaches studying the cnidarian-Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis through a comparative lens to determine how it shapes immune gene evolution and immune responses in divergent symbiotic cnidarian species. In chapter two I survey eight non-symbiotic and seven symbiotic cnidarians proteomes for four families of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and find expanded PRR repertoires, a proxy for immune specificity, in symbiotic cnidarians. In chapter three I investigate the influence of photosymbiosis on the disease response of the facultatively symbiotic Cassiopea xamachana through survival assays, acidic organelle activity, and gene expression data to find evidence of a trade-off between photosymbiosis and immunity. In chapter four I compare gene expression differences occurring between symbiotic and aposymbiotic animals in facultatively symbiotic cnidarians across two independent evolutions of the cnidarian-Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis and find evidence of large-scale differences in the strategies each species utilizes while hosting symbionts that likely influence how the species respond to anthropogenic stressors. Together, this work approaches studying the cnidarian-Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis through a comparative lens to broaden the field’s understanding of the foundational ways in which hosting Symbiodiniaceae intracellularly impacts cnidarians’ ability to respond to anthropogenic stressors.


Symbiosis, Cnidaria, Innate immunity


Bioinformatics | Immunity | Marine Biology



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