Coral bleaching, the loss of necessary algal symbionts for the survival of cnidarian reef organisms, is a disastrous environmental issue that is mainly caused by anthropogenic global warming. Genetically modifying corals’ symbiotic microalgae, Symbiodinium, to better withstand heat stress may combat coral bleaching.
We have attempted several transformations, creatively designed an algae house, and built a temperature-ecological amplitude model based on the Shelford's Law of Tolerance to find the best conditions for culturing Symbiodinium. In addition, we have successfully designed a recombinant plasmid by inserting a GUS reporter gene and the most appropriate modified heat resistant gene, heat shock factor, into a dinoflagellate-optimized expression DinoIII plasmid. We will perform a biolistics gene gun-mediated transformation. Because the commercial gene gun is so expensive, we will use 2018 iGEM team Worcester’s design to build our own gene gun. Hopefully, the corals will uptake the modified algae, increasing their resistance to bleaching.