Maria Castillo

Assistant Professor: Biology Department | (575) 646-7664


Research Area: Immunology

Our laboratory focuses on the study of the immunological aspects of the relationship between the Hawaiian bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes and its beneficial partner, the luminous bacteria Vibrio fischeri (1). The interaction between these two organisms is very specific and limited to a specialized light organ located in the ventral cavity of the squid. The bacteria find within the host shelter and nutrients, while the squid utilizes the light produced by the bacteria as counterillumination to avoid predation during its nocturnal activities (2).
Our research investigates the presence, diversity, and function of complement-like proteins in the squid E. scolopes and their potential role in beneficial symbiosis. The complement system consists of a group of proteins that play an important role in immune processes such as cytolysis, opsonization, inflammation, and linking the innate and adaptive immune systems. Orthologs of several vertebrate complement components were recently identified in deuterostomes, ecdysozoans, and lophotrochozoans including tunicates, horseshoe crab, and squid respectively. The finding of complement molecules in invertebrates suggests a more primitive origin of these immune components than previously thought and presents an opportunity to study the changes of the immune system through evolution.
In addition, the specific association between E. scolopes and V. fischeri is a unique model system that allows us to study various aspects of immune interactions between organisms of different species in a context that differs from pathogenesis.
References: (1 )Nyholm S. V. and McFall-Ngai, 2004. (2) Jones B. W. and Nishiguchi M. K., 2004).

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