Mohammad Moniruzzaman

Asst. Professor

Locator Code:
VK

 
About

Asst. Professor, Department of Marine Biology and Ecology - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Mohammad ‘Monir’ Moniruzzaman is an Assistant Professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Monir’s research interest is focused on the molecular and eco-evolutionary aspects of virus-host interactions using both experimental and computational biology approaches.

Career

Career Summary

Monir completed his BS and MS in Microbiology from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He completed his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville under the supervision of Dr. Steven Wilhelm. Primary focus of his PhD research was the molecular and ecological aspects of interactions of ‘giant’ viruses with photosynthetic microbial eukaryotes that cause harmful algal blooms in the coastal USA. He performed his postdoctoral research at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (PI: Dr. Alexandra Worden) and Virginia Tech (PI: Dr. Frank Aylward), where he focused on algal ecophysiology, giant virus diversity, genomics and their co-evolution with microbial eukaryote hosts.

Career Summary

Monir completed his BS and MS in Microbiology from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He completed his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville under the supervision of Dr. Steven Wilhelm. Primary focus of his PhD research was the molecular and ecological aspects of interactions of ‘giant’ viruses with photosynthetic microbial eukaryotes that cause harmful algal blooms in the coastal USA. He performed his postdoctoral research at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (PI: Dr. Alexandra Worden) and Virginia Tech (PI: Dr. Frank Aylward), where he focused on algal ecophysiology, giant virus diversity, genomics and their co-evolution with microbial eukaryote hosts.

Research

Research Interest

Viruses shape the evolution and ecology of myriad microbial lineages in the biosphere. One of the most compelling viral groups that have recently garnered great interest are the ‘giant viruses’; also known as Nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDV). NCLDVs are a diverse group of eukaryotic viruses with large genome size and hundreds of genes with complex evolutionary histories. Commonly known as ‘giant viruses’, they challenge the traditional view of viruses, demonstrating that viruses can be larger than some cellular lineages both in terms of physical size and genomic contents. However, little is known about the impact of giant viruses on the ecological and evolutionary trajectories of their hosts, despite the fact that they are ubiquitous in the biosphere and infect diverse ecologically important microbial eukaryotes. A central goal of our research is to develop a comprehensive understanding of how NCLDV-host interactions shape the eco-evolutionary dynamics of diverse eukaryotic lineages, using ‘multi-omics’ and a variety of molecular approaches.

In Monir lab, we employ lab experiments, field-research and bioinformatic approaches to pursue several major research directions:

  1. Algal blooms as ecological laboratories to study the dynamics of giant virus – host interactions: Previous research has demonstrated that giant viruses are a key component of several algal blooms, which includes ecologically devastating brown tide blooms and massive blooms that are visible from space. Our lab aims to generate a system-level understanding of the contribution of giant viruses in modulating such algal blooms and how they influence the dynamics of key protist lineages in marine systems. To this end, our lab will study several distinct algal blooms that have appeared recurrently at the US coasts for decades – specifically, the red tide in the Gulf of Mexico caused by toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, and the brown tide blooms in the east coast by pelagophyte Aureococcus anophagefferens.

  2. Deciphering the molecular underpinnings of ‘virocell’ metabolism:  A ‘virocell’ is a conceptual framework that emphasizes the fact that lytic viral infection remodels the physiology of a host cell. Viral lysis of numerous microbial taxa can modulate the nutrient flux within the marine microbiome and also contributes to the efficiency of the biological carbon pump. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of virocell metabolism is therefore crucial for evaluating the contribution of viruses to the global. In eukaryotic cells, the presence of large genomes and distinct organelles result in a highly complex physiological landscape that viruses must rewire for successful propagation. Additionally, giant viruses often encode a large number of metabolic genes. However, there is only limited information on the precise role of these genes in manipulating the nutrient flux, energy and carbon metabolism of infected host cells. In our lab, we will investigate the molecular remodeling of the virocell, and the role of giant virus-encoded metabolic genes leveraging the existing host-virus systems already available in culture.

  3. Assessing the impact of endogenous giant viruses on the physiology and genome evolution of their eukaryotic hosts: Endogenous viral elements (EVEs)—viral sequences that integrate into host genomes and eventually become heritable as host alleles—can spur host genome rearrangement, functional innovations, and mediate horizontal gene transfer (HGT). In our recent work, we have identified widespread endogenization of NCLDV genomes in diverse green algae. These Giant Endogenous Viral Elements (GEVEs) are several hundred kilobases long and contribute up to 10% of the total genes in some of the chlorophyte genomes in which they are integrated. In future work, we plan to develop a foundational understanding of the role endogenous NCLDVs play in the genome evolution, physiology and phenotypic diversity of protists