Jeremiah D Hackett
Associate Department Head, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Associate Professor, BIO5 Institute
Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Associate Professor, Genetics - GIDP
Primary Department
(520) 621-7514
Work Summary
Jeremiah Hackett’s research interests are in the areas of genome evolution, the evolution of photosynthesis and the physiology of harmful algae. Part of his research investigates how eukaryotes acquire plastids through endosymbiosis and how this process influences genome evolution through gene transfer. Another main area of research is the ecology and physiology of harmful algae. His lab is using microarrays to determine global gene expression patterns of harmful algae under various growth conditions. These gene expression profiles will be used to determine the factors that lead to harmful algal blooms in the oceans.
Research Interest
Dr. Jeremiah Hackett, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Department Head of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Ph.D. in Genetics, University of Iowa. Dr. Hackett’s research interests are in the areas of genome evolution, evolution of photosynthesis and the physiology of harmful algae. His research investigates how eukaryotes acquire plastids through endosymbiosis and how this process influences genome evolution through gene transfer. Another main area of research is the ecology and physiology of harmful algae. Dr. Hackett uses microarrays to determine global gene expression patterns of harmful algae under various growth conditions. These gene expression profiles will be used to determine the factors that lead to harmful algal blooms in the oceans.


Lim, A., Dimalanta, E. T., Potamousis, K. D., Yen, G., Apodoca, J., Tao, C., Lin, J., Qi, R., Skiadas, J., Ramanathan, A., Perna, N. T., Plunkett, G., Burland, V., Mau, B., Hackett, J., Blattner, F. R., Anantharaman, T. S., Mishra, B., & Schwartz, D. C. (2001). Shotgun optical maps of the whole Escherichia coli O157:H7 genome. Genome research, 11(9), 1584-93.

We have constructed NheI and XhoI optical maps of Escherichia coli O157:H7 solely from genomic DNA molecules to provide a uniquely valuable scaffold for contig closure and sequence validation. E. coli O157:H7 is a common pathogen found in contaminated food and water. Our approach obviated the need for the analysis of clones, PCR products, and hybridizations, because maps were constructed from ensembles of single DNA molecules. Shotgun sequencing of bacterial genomes remains labor-intensive, despite advances in sequencing technology. This is partly due to manual intervention required during the last stages of finishing. The applicability of optical mapping to this problem was enhanced by advances in machine vision techniques that improved mapping throughput and created a path to full automation of mapping. Comparisons were made between maps and sequence data that characterized sequence gaps and guided nascent assemblies.

Hackett, J. D., Wisecaver, J. H., Brosnahan, M. L., Kulis, D. M., Anderson, D. M., Bhattacharya, D., Plumley, F. G., & Erdner, D. L. (2013). Evolution of saxitoxin synthesis in cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates. Molecular biology and evolution, 30(1), 70-8.

Dinoflagellates produce a variety of toxic secondary metabolites that have a significant impact on marine ecosystems and fisheries. Saxitoxin (STX), the cause of paralytic shellfish poisoning, is produced by three marine dinoflagellate genera and is also made by some freshwater cyanobacteria. Genes involved in STX synthesis have been identified in cyanobacteria but are yet to be reported in the massive genomes of dinoflagellates. We have assembled comprehensive transcriptome data sets for several STX-producing dinoflagellates and a related non-toxic species and have identified 265 putative homologs of 13 cyanobacterial STX synthesis genes, including all of the genes directly involved in toxin synthesis. Putative homologs of four proteins group closely in phylogenies with cyanobacteria and are likely the functional homologs of sxtA, sxtG, and sxtB in dinoflagellates. However, the phylogenies do not support the transfer of these genes directly between toxic cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates. SxtA is split into two proteins in the dinoflagellates corresponding to the N-terminal portion containing the methyltransferase and acyl carrier protein domains and a C-terminal portion with the aminotransferase domain. Homologs of sxtB and N-terminal sxtA are present in non-toxic strains, suggesting their functions may not be limited to saxitoxin production. Only homologs of the C-terminus of sxtA and sxtG were found exclusively in toxic strains. A more thorough survey of STX+ dinoflagellates will be needed to determine if these two genes may be specific to SXT production in dinoflagellates. The A. tamarense transcriptome does not contain homologs for the remaining STX genes. Nevertheless, we identified candidate genes with similar predicted biochemical activities that account for the missing functions. These results suggest that the STX synthesis pathway was likely assembled independently in the distantly related cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates, although using some evolutionarily related proteins. The biological role of STX is not well understood in either cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates. However, STX production in these two ecologically distinct groups of organisms suggests that this toxin confers a benefit to producers that we do not yet fully understand.

Hackett, J. D., Tong, M., Kulis, D. M., Fux, E., Hess, P., Bire, R., & Anderson, D. M. (2009). DSP toxin production de novo in cultures of Dinophysis acuminata (Dinophyceae) from North America. Harmful Algae, 8(6), 873-879.


For decades, many aspects of Dinophysis biology have remained intractable due to our inability to maintain these organisms in laboratory cultures. Recent breakthroughs in culture methods have opened the door for detailed investigations of these important algae. Here, for the first time, we demonstrate toxin production in cultures of North American Dinophysis acuminata, isolated from Woods Hole, MA. These findings show that, despite the rarity of Dinophysis-related DSP events in North America, D. acuminata from this area has the ability to produce DSP toxins just as it does in other parts of the world where this species is a major cause of DSP toxicity. In our cultures, D. acuminata cells were observed feeding on Myrionecta rubra using a peduncle. Culture extracts were analyzed using LC-MS/MS, providing unequivocal evidence for the toxin DTX1 in the Dinophysis cultures. In addition, a significant amount of an okadaic acid diol ester, OA-D8, was detected. These results suggest that this Dinophysis isolate stores much of its OA as a diol ester. Also, toxin PTX-2 and a hydroxylated PTX-2 with identical fragmentation mass spectrum to that of PTX-11, but with a different retention time, were detected in this D. acuminata culture. This demonstration of toxin production in cultured North American Dinophysis sets the stage for more detailed studies investigating the causes of geographic differences in toxicity. It is now clear that North American Dinophysis have the ability to produce DSP toxins even though they only rarely cause toxic DSP events in nature. This may reflect environmental conditions that might induce or repress toxin production, genetic differences that cause modifications in toxin gene expression, or physiological and biochemical differences in prey species. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Bhattacharya, D., Yoon, H. S., & Hackett, J. D. (2004). Photosynthetic eukaryotes unite: Endosymbiosis connects the dots. BioEssays, 26(1), 50-60.

PMID: 14696040;Abstract:

The photosynthetic organelle of algae and plants (the plastid) traces its origin to a primary endosymbiotic event in which a previously non-photosynthetic protist engulfed and enslaved a cyanobacterium. This eukaryote then gave rise to the red, green and glaucophyte algae. However, many algal lineages, such as the chlorophyll c-containing chromists, have a more complicated evolutionary history involving a secondary endosymbiotic event, in which a protist engulfed an existing eukaryotic alga (in this case, a red alga). Chromists such as diatoms and kelps then rose to great importance in aquatic habitats. Another algal group, the dinoflagellates, has undergone tertiary (engulfment of a secondary plastid) and even quaternary endosymbioses. In this review, we examine algal diversity and show endosymbiosis to be a major force in algal evolution. This area of research has advanced rapidly and long-standing issues such as the chromalveolate hypothesis and the extent of endosymbiotic gene transfer have recently been clarified. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Li, S., Nosenko, T., Hackett, J. D., & Bhattacharya, D. (2006). Phylogenomic analysis identifies red algal genes of endosymbiotic origin in the chromalveolates. Molecular biology and evolution, 23(3), 663-74.

Endosymbiosis has spread photosynthesis to many branches of the eukaryotic tree; however, the history of photosynthetic organelle (plastid) gain and loss remains controversial. Fortuitously, endosymbiosis may leave a genomic footprint through the transfer of endosymbiont genes to the "host" nucleus (endosymbiotic gene transfer, EGT). EGT can be detected through comparison of host genomes to uncover the history of past plastid acquisitions. Here we focus on a lineage of chlorophyll c-containing algae and protists ("chromalveolates") that are postulated to share a common red algal secondary endosymbiont. This plastid is originally of cyanobacterial origin through primary endosymbiosis and is closely related among the Plantae (i.e., red, green, and glaucophyte algae). To test these ideas, an automated phylogenomics pipeline was used with a novel unigene data set of 5,081 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from the haptophyte alga Emiliania huxleyi and genome or EST data from other chromalveolates, red algae, plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. We focused on nuclear-encoded proteins that are targeted to the plastid to express their function because this group of genes is expected to have phylogenies that are relatively easy to interpret. A total of 708 genes were identified in E. huxleyi that had a significant Blast hit to at least one other taxon in our data set. Forty-six of the alignments that were derived from the 708 genes contained at least one other chromalveolate (i.e., besides E. huxleyi), red and/or green algae (or land plants), and one or more cyanobacteria, whereas 15 alignments contained E. huxleyi, one or more other chromalveolates, and only cyanobacteria. Detailed phylogenetic analyses of these data sets turned up 19 cases of EGT that did not contain significant paralogy and had strong bootstrap support at the internal nodes, allowing us to confidently identify the source of the plastid-targeted gene in E. huxleyi. A total of 17 genes originated from the red algal lineage, whereas 2 genes were of green algal origin. Our data demonstrate the existence of multiple red algal genes that are shared among different chromalveolates, suggesting that at least a subset of this group may share a common origin.