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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. Dinoflagellates of the Symbiodiniaceae family encompass diverse symbionts that are critical to corals and other species living in coral reefs. It is well known that sexual reproduction enhances adaptive evolution in changing environments. Although genes related to meiotic functions were reported in Symbiodiniaceae, cytological evidence of meiosis and fertilisation are however yet to be observed in these taxa. Using transcriptome and genome data from 21 Symbiodiniaceae isolates, we studied genes that encode proteins associated with distinct stages of meiosis and syngamy. We report the absence of genes that encode main components of the synaptonemal complex (SC), a protein structure thatmore »mediates homologous chromosomal pairing and class I crossovers. This result suggests an independent loss of canonical SCs in the alveolates, that also includes the SC-lacking ciliates. We hypothesise that this loss was due in part to permanently condensed chromosomes and repeat-rich sequences in Symbiodiniaceae (and other dinoflagellates) which favoured the SC-independent class II crossover pathway. Our results reveal novel insights into evolution of the meiotic molecular machinery in the ecologically important Symbiodiniaceae and in other eukaryotes.« less
  3. Background: Dinoflagellates are taxonomically diverse and ecologically important phytoplankton that are ubiquitously present in marine and freshwater environments. Mostly photosynthetic, dinoflagellates provide the basis of aquatic primary production; most taxa are free-living, while some can form symbiotic and parasitic associations with other organisms. However, knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that underpin the adaptation of these organisms to diverse ecological niches is limited by the scarce availability of genomic data, partly due to their large genome sizes estimated up to 250 Gbp. Currently available dinoflagellate genome data are restricted to Symbiodiniaceae (particularly symbionts of reef-building corals) and parasitic lineages, from taxamore »that have smaller genome size ranges, while genomic information from more diverse free living species is still lacking. Results: Here, we present two draft diploid genome assemblies of the free-living dinoflagellate Polarella glacialis, isolated from the Arctic and Antarctica. We found that about 68% of the genomes are composed of repetitive sequence, with long terminal repeats likely contributing to intra-species structural divergence and distinct genome sizes (3.0 and 2.7 Gbp). For each genome, guided using full-length transcriptome data, we predicted > 50,000 high-quality protein-coding genes, of which ~40% are in unidirectional gene clusters and ~25% comprise single exons. Multi-genome comparison unveiled genes specific to P. glacialis and a common, putatively bacterial origin of ice-binding domains in cold-adapted dinoflagellates. Conclusions: Our results elucidate how selection acts within the context of a complex genome structure to facilitate local adaptation. Because most dinoflagellate genes are constitutively expressed, Polarella glacialis has enhanced transcriptional responses via unidirectional, tandem duplication of single-exon genes that encode functions critical to survival in cold, low-light polar environments. These genomes provide a foundational reference for future research on dinoflagellate evolution.« less
  4. Coral reefs are sustained by symbioses between corals and symbiodiniacean dinoflagellates. These symbioses vary in the extent of their permanence in and specificity to the host. Although dinoflagellates are primarily free-living, Symbiodiniaceae diversified mainly as symbiotic lineages. Their genomes reveal conserved symbiosis-related gene functions and high sequence divergence. However, the evolutionary mechanisms that underpin the transition from the free-living lifestyle to symbiosis remain poorly understood. Here, we discuss the genome evolution of Symbiodiniaceae in diverse ecological niches across the broad spectrum of symbiotic associations, from free-living to putative obligate symbionts. We pose key questions regarding genome evolution vis-à-vis the transitionmore »of dinoflagellates from free-living to symbiotic and propose strategies for future research to better understand coral-dinoflagellate and other eukaryote-eukaryote symbioses.« less