Alizée Thomas, B.sc
Ongoing project: The role of the gut microbiota of Beluga Whales in the production of selenoneine.
The consumption of Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas) by the Inuit of Nunvavik exposes them to a significant amount of methylmercury, but also selenoneine. Selenoneine is a compound that has antioxidant properties on methylmercury and thus protects individuals from its toxicity. Selenoneine in Inuit blood was found to be positively correlated with the consumption of mattaaq, a meal made up of fat and Beluga skin. We know that animals are not able to synthesize selenoneine, but some bacteria and fungi are. Thus, the microorganisms that make up the gut microbiota could be responsible for the production of selenoneine. The objective of this research project is to understand the contribution of the gut microbiota of the Beluga Whale in the synthesis of selenoneine and to assess the origin of those microorganisms .
To do so, we will characterize bacterial and fungal communities of the Beluga Whale microbiota in order to search for taxa with the functions of selenoneine synthesis. This study will contribute to the acquisition of knowledge about one of the mechanisms involved in selenoneine acquisition of the Beluga Whale and can be applied more widely in the marine ecosystem.