Rosa Isabel Figueroa

Distinguished researcher

ORCID: 0000-0001-9944-7993



My research focuses on the study of the life cycle and nuclear processes of dinoflagellates and their parasites. Dinoflagellates form proliferations that can be harmful and / or toxic, and the key to their damaging effect is not their presence, but their massive growth. Therefore, understanding the processes of division is the key to reach the control and balance of the ecosystem. My research is mainly focused on the analysis of the asexual (mitosis) and sexual (meiosis) division and the ecological factors that determine the transition from one to the other. Related to these processes, I work mainly with resistance cyst-forming species, given their interest as markers of sexuality, but also as key elements in the recurrence of blooms (traditionally known as red tides). Due to the large size of its nucleus (up to 70 times larger than a human nucleus) and other unique characteristics within eukaryotes, I am also interested in characterizing the evolution of the nucleus and its chromosomes, which we study using flow cytometry, FISH, and which we combine with population genetic studies. Among dinoflagellate parasites, I am mainly interested in the genus Parvilucifera, which I study to understand the infective process and the consequences on dinoflagellate populations and blooms.

Selected projects

2011-2016: Improved mitigation and management strategies of toxic algal blooms using a molecular Biological approach. Founded by Formas 2011-2015: Ecological genetics of Harmful Algal Blooms: Identifying local adaptation, genetic structure and species boundaries in Marine Eukaryotic host-parasite systems”- Founded by Crafoord Foundation. 2015-2018: Adaptive strategies of noxious microalgae: an innovative approach applied to the study of ciguatera in Canary Islands in the context of climate change. Founded by Spanish Miisterio de Economía y Competitividad (I+D+I) .2018-2021: Innovative detection of harmful algal blooms: A need in the context of global warming (DIANAS:CTM2017-86066-R). Founded by Spanish Miisterio de Economía y Competitividad (I+D+I).

Selected publications

Figueroa, R. I., Howe-Kerr, L.I., Correa, A.M.S. 2021. Direct evidence of sex and a hypothesis about meiosis in Symbiodiniaceae. Scientific reports 11:18838. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-98148-9.

Rodríguez-Villegas, C., Díaz, P., Riobó, P., E. Rossignoli, A., Rodríguez, F., Loures, P., M. Baldrich, Á., Varela, D., Sandoval, A., I. Figueroa, R. I. 2021. Latitudinal variation in the toxicity and sexual compatibility of Alexandrium catenella strains from Southern Chile. Toxins 13(12), 900.

Rodríguez F., Figueroa R.I. 2020. Confirmation of the wide host range of Parvilucifera corolla (Alveolata, Perkinsozoa). European Journal of Protistology 74:125690.

Fagín E., Bravo I., Garrido J.L., Rodríguez F., Figueroa R.I. 2019. Scrippsiella acuminata versus Scrippsiella ramonii: A Physiological Comparison. Cytometry A.

Cuadrado A., de Bustos A., Figueroa R.I. 2019. Chromosomal markers in the genus Karenia: Towards an understanding of the evolution of the chromosomes, life cycle patterns and phylogenetic relationships in dinoflagellates. Scientific Reports. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-35785-7

Díaz P., Varela, D., Pérez-Santos I., Díaz M., Molinet C., Seguel M., Aguilera-Belmonte A., Alvarez G., Uribe E., Rengel J., Hernández C., Segura C., Figueroa R. I. 2019. Impacts of harmful algal blooms on the aquaculture industry: Chile as a case study. Perspectives in Phycology. e-ISSN 2198-011X, print-ISSN 2364-6993. DOI: 10.1127/pip/2019/0081

Figueroa, R. I., Estrada, M., Garcés, E. 2018. Life histories of microalgal species causing harmful blooms: Haploids, diploids and the relevance of benthic stages. Harmful Algae 73:44-57.

Figueroa, R. I., de Bustos, A., Cuadrado, A. 2018. A novel FISH technique for labeling the chromosomes of dinoflagellates in suspension. PlosOne 13(10): e0204382.

Díaz, P., Molinet, C., Seguel, M., Díaz, M., Labra, G., Figueroa, R. I. 2018. Species diversity and abundance of dinoflagellate resting cysts seven months after a bloom of Alexandrium catenella in two contrasting coastal systems of the Chilean Inland Sea. European Journal of Phycology 53:410-421. doi: 10.1080/09670262.2018.1455111

Salgado, P., Figueroa, R.I., Ramilo, I., Bravo, I. 2017. The life history of the toxic marine dinoflagellate Protoceratium reticulatum (Gonyaulacales) in culture. Harmful Algae 68:67-81.

Rodríguez, F., Fraga, S., Ramilo, I., Rial, P., Figueroa, R.I., Riobó, P., Bravo, I., 2017. Canary Islands (NE Atlantic) as a biodiversity ‘hotspot’ of Gambierdiscus: Implications for future trends of ciguatera in the area. Harmful Algae 67:131-143.

Figueroa, R.I.,Dapena, C., Bravo, I. and Cuadrado, A. 2015. The hidden sexuality of Alexandrium minutum: An example of overlooked sex in dinoflagellates.PLoSONE 10 (11): e0142667. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142667

Salgado, P., Vázquez, J.A., Riobó, P., Franco, J.M., Figueroa, R.I., Kremp, A. and Bravo, I. A Kinetic and Factorial Approach to Study the Effects of Temperature and Salinity on Growth and Toxin Production by the Dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii from the Baltic Sea. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143021. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0143021

Turon, M., Alacid, E., Figueroa, R.I., Reñé, A., Ferrera, I., Bravo, I., Ramilo, I. and Garcés, E. 2015. Genetic and phenotypic diversity characterization of natural populations of the parasitoid Parvilucifera sinerae. AME 76(2):117-132. doi:10.3354/ame01771.

Kohli, G., John, U., Figueroa, R. I., Rhodes, L., Harwood, D. T., Groth, M. Bolch, J.S. and Murray, S. A. 2015. Polyketide synthesis genes associated with toxin production in two species of Gambierdiscus (Dinophyceae). BMC Genomics 16(1). DOI:10.1186/s12864-015-1625-y.

Stüken, A., Riobó, P., Franco, J., Jakobsen, S.J.,  Guillou, L. and Figueroa, R. I2015. Paralytic shellfish toxin content is related to genomic sxtA4 copy number in Alexandrium minutum strains. Frontiers in Microbiology 6:404. DOI=10.3389/fmicb.2015.00404. ISSN=1664-302X.

Dapena, C., Bravo, I., Cuadrado, A. and Figueroa, R. I. 2015. Nuclear and cell morphological changes during the cell cycle and growth of the toxic dinoflagellateAlexandrium minutum. Protist 166(1):146-160. DOI: 10.1016/j.protis.2015.01.001.

Díaz, P. A., Molinet, C., Seguel, M., Díaz, M., Labra, G., Figueroa, R. I. 2014. Coupling planktonic and benthic shifts during a bloom of Alexandrium catenella in Southern Chile: Implications for bloom dynamics and recurrence. Harmful Algae 40: 9-22.

Bravo, I., Figueroa, R. I., Fraga, S. 2014. Cellular and nuclear morphological variability within a single species of the toxigenic dinoflagellate genus Gambierdiscus: relationship to life-cycle processes. Harmful Algae 40:1-8.

Råberg, L., Alacid, E., Garcés, E., Figueroa, R. I. 2014. The potential for arms race and Red Queen coevolution in a protist host-parasite system. Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1314

Figueroa, R. I., Cuadrado, A. Stuken, A., rodriguez, F., Fraga, S. 2014. Ribosomal DNA organization patterns in the dinoflagellate genus Alexandrium as revealed by FISH: Life cycle and evolutionary  implications. Protist 165(3): 343-363. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.031.

Bravo, I., Figueroa, R. I. 2014. Towards an ecological understanding of dinoflagellate cyst functions. Microoganisms 2:11-32.

Garcés, E., Alacid, E., Bravo, I., Fraga, S., Figueroa, R. I. 2013. Parvilucifera sinerae (alveolata, Myzozoa) is a generalist parasitoid of dinoflagellates. Protist 164(2):245-260.

Ellegaard, M., Figueroa, R. I., Versteegh, G. J. M. 2013. Dinoflagellate life cycles, strategy and diversity:key foci for future research. In: Lewis (Ed), Biological and Geological perspectives of Dinoflagellates, London, pp 249-261.

Tahvanainen, P., Alpermann, T.J., Figueroa, R.I., John, U., Hakanen, P., Nagai, S., Blomster, J. Kremp, A. 2012. Patterns of post-glacial genetic differentiation in marginal populations of a marine microalga. PLos One 7(12):e53602.

Figueroa, R. I., Vázquez, J. A., Massanet, A., Murado, M. A. and Bravo, I. 2011. Interactive effects of salinity and temperature on planozygote and cyst formation on Alexandrium minutum (Dinophyceae).Journal of Phycology 47:13-24.

Figueroa, R.I., Garcés, E. 2010. Dinoflagellate Life Cycles. in The Tree of Life Web Project,

Figueroa, R. I., Garces, E., Camp, J. 2010. Local adaptation and reproductive plasticity in an environmentally relevant host-parasite system.Harmful Algae 10 (1): 56-63.

Figueroa, R. I., Rengefors, K., Bensch, S. and Bravo, I. 2010. From homothally to heterothally: Mating preferences and genetic variation within clones of the dinoflagellate Gymnodinium catenatum. Deep Sea Reseach II 57: 190-8.

Figueroa, R. I., Bravo, I., Fraga, S., Garcés, E. and Llavería, G. 2009. The life history and cell cycle of Kryptoperidinium foliaceum, a dinoflagellate with two eukaryotic nuclei. Protist 160: 285-300.

Figueroa, R. I., Garcés, E., Massana, R., Camp, J. 2008. Description, host-specificity and strain selectivity of the dinoflagellate parasite Parvilucifera sinerae sp. nov. (Perkinsozoa). Protist 159:563-578.

Figueroa, R. I., Bravo, I., Ramilo, I., Pazos, Y., Moroño, A. 2008. New life cycle stages of Gymnodinium catenatum (Dinophyceae): Laboratory and field observations. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 52: 13-23.

Figueroa, R. I., Garcés, E., Bravo, I. 2007. Comparative study between the life cycles of Alexandrium tamutum  and Alexandrium minutum (Gonyaulacales, Dinophyceae) in culture. Journal of Phycology 43(5):1039-1053.

Figueroa, R. I., Bravo, I., Garcés, E. 2006. The multiple routes of sexuality in Alexandrium tailori (Dinophyceae) in culture. Journal of Phycology 42: 1028-1039.

Figueroa, R. I., Rengefors, K., Bravo, I. 2006. Parental effects and meiosis on sexual offspring of Gymnodinium nolleri (Dinophyceae). Journal of Phycology 42(2):350-362.