Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
B.S. University of Miami 2000
Ph. D. University of South Florida 2006
Office: Science Village Admin., room 121
My research focuses on kleptoplasty in Sacoglossans, an unusual relationship where sea slugs steal, maintain, and use chloroplasts from their algal food sources, for up to 11 months in some species. I am interested in how the chloroplasts are sequestered by the sea slugs, and how they can be maintained and remain functional in some species for such extended periods of time. My research strongly suggests that the sea slug Elysia chlorotica has acquired functional, nuclear encoded algal genes from its food source, Vaucheria litorea, via horizontal gene transfer. These transferred genes likely help the extreme, long term maintenance of chloroplasts in this species. I utilize an integrated approach to understanding this phenomenon incorporating physiological, cell and molecular, genetic, genomic, and microscopical techniques. I am also interested in phycology, including phylogenetics, and I am currently helping to examine the genome of the algae Vaucheria litorea.
Curtis, N.E., M. Middlebrooks, J.A. Schwartz, and S.K. Pierce (2012) A comparison of photosynthetic function of sequestered chloroplasts in three sacoglossan species with differing plastid sequestering and maintenance abilities. (In Prep)
Pierce, S.K., Xiaodong F., J. A. Schwartz, Xuanting J.,Wei Z., N.E. Curtis, K. Kocot, Bicheng Y., Jian W., 2012 Transcriptomic evidence for the expression of horizontally transferred algal nuclear genes in the photosynthetic sea slug, Elysia chlorotica. Molec. Bio. Evol. 29: 1545-1556.
Curtis, N. E., S. K. Pierce, J. A. Schwartz. 2010. An ultrastructural comparison of chloroplast-containing cells in four sacoglossan species with differing plastid sequestering and maintenance abilities. Invertebr. Biol. 129: 297-308.
Pierce, S.K., Curtis, N.E., and Schwartz, J.A. 2009. Chlorophyll a synthesis by an animal using transferred algal genes. Symbiosis 49: 121-131.
Curtis, N. E., C.J. Dawes, and S. K. Pierce. 2008. Phylogenetic analysis of the large subunit RUBISCO gene supports the exclusion of Avrainvillea and Cladocephalus from the Udoteaceae (Bryopsidales, Chlorophyta). J. Phycol. 44 (3) 761-767
Curtis, N. E., S. K. Pierce, S. E. Massey, J. A. Schwartz and T. K. Maugel. 2007 . The intracellular, functional chloroplasts in adult sea slugs (Elysia clarki) come from several algal species, and are also different from those in juvenile slugs. Mar. Biol. 150: 797-806.
Curtis, N. E., S. E. Massey and S. K. Pierce. 2006. The symbiotic chloroplasts in the sacoglossan Elysia clarki are from several algal species. J. Invert. Biol. 125: 336-345.