Evolutionary analysis of orthologous cDNA sequences from cultured and symbiotic dinoflagellate symbionts of reef-building corals (Dinophyceae: Symbiodinium)

Christian R. Voolstra, Shinichi Sunagawa, Jodi A. Schwarz, Mary Alice Coffroth, Dave Yellowlees, William Leggat, Mónica Medina

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35 Scopus citations


Dinoflagellates are ubiquitous marine and freshwater protists. The endosymbiotic relationship between dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium (also known as zooxanthellae) and corals forms the basis of coral reefs. We constructed and analyzed a cDNA library from a cultured Symbiodinium species clade A (CassKB8). The majority of annotated ESTs from the Symbiodinium sp. CassKB8 library cover metabolic genes. Most of those belong to either carbohydrate or energy metabolism. In addition, components of extracellular signal transduction pathways and genes that play a role in cell-cell communication were identified. In a subsequent analysis, we determined all orthologous cDNA sequences between this library (1,484 unique sequences) and a library from a Symbiodinium species clade C (C3) (3,336 unique sequences) that was isolated directly from its symbiotic host. A set of 115 orthologs were identified between Symbiodinium sp. CassKB8 and Symbiodinium sp. C3. These orthologs were subdivided into three groups that show different characteristics and functions: conserved across eukaryotes (CE), dinoflagellate-specific (DS) and Symbiodinium-specific (SS). Orthologs conserved across eukaryotes are mainly comprised of housekeeping genes, photosynthesis-related transcripts and metabolic proteins, whereas the function for most of the dinoflagellate-specific orthologs remains unknown. A dN/dS analysis identified the highest ratio in a Symbiodinium-specific ortholog and evidence for positive selection in a dinoflagellate-specific gene. Evolution of genes and pathways in different dinoflagellates seems to be affected by different lifestyles, and a symbiotic lifestyle may affect population structure and strength of selection. This study is the first evolutionary comparative analysis of orthologs from two coral dinoflagellate symbionts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part D: Genomics and Proteomics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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