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  1. Dinoflagellates of the family Symbiodiniaceae are predominantly essential symbionts of corals and other marine organisms. Recent research reveals extensive genome sequence divergence among Symbiodiniaceae taxa and high phylogenetic diversity hidden behind subtly different cell morphologies. Using an alignment-free phylogenetic approach based on sub-sequences of fixed length k (i.e. k -mers), we assessed the phylogenetic signal among whole-genome sequences from 16 Symbiodiniaceae taxa (including the genera of Symbiodinium , Breviolum , Cladocopium , Durusdinium and Fugacium ) and two strains of Polarella glacialis as outgroup. Based on phylogenetic trees inferred from k -mers in distinct genomic regions (i.e. repeat-masked genome sequences,more »protein-coding sequences, introns and repeats) and in protein sequences, the phylogenetic signal associated with protein-coding DNA and the encoded amino acids is largely consistent with the Symbiodiniaceae phylogeny based on established markers, such as large subunit rRNA. The other genome sequences (introns and repeats) exhibit distinct phylogenetic signals, supporting the expected differential evolutionary pressure acting on these regions. Our analysis of conserved core k -mers revealed the prevalence of conserved k -mers (>95% core 23-mers among all 18 genomes) in annotated repeats and non-genic regions of the genomes. We observed 180 distinct repeat types that are significantly enriched in genomes of the symbiotic versus free-living Symbiodinium taxa, suggesting an enhanced activity of transposable elements linked to the symbiotic lifestyle. We provide evidence that representation of alignment-free phylogenies as dynamic networks enhances the ability to generate new hypotheses about genome evolution in Symbiodiniaceae. These results demonstrate the potential of alignment-free phylogenetic methods as a scalable approach for inferring comprehensive, unbiased whole-genome phylogenies of dinoflagellates and more broadly of microbial eukaryotes.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 26, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  3. Abstract Background Dinoflagellates in the family Symbiodiniaceae are important photosynthetic symbionts in cnidarians (such as corals) and other coral reef organisms. Breakdown of the coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis due to environmental stress (i.e. coral bleaching) can lead to coral death and the potential collapse of reef ecosystems. However, evolution of Symbiodiniaceae genomes, and its implications for the coral, is little understood. Genome sequences of Symbiodiniaceae remain scarce due in part to their large genome sizes (1–5 Gbp) and idiosyncratic genome features. Results Here, we present de novo genome assemblies of seven members of the genus Symbiodinium , of which two are free-living,more »one is an opportunistic symbiont, and the remainder are mutualistic symbionts. Integrating other available data, we compare 15 dinoflagellate genomes revealing high sequence and structural divergence. Divergence among some Symbiodinium isolates is comparable to that among distinct genera of Symbiodiniaceae. We also recovered hundreds of gene families specific to each lineage, many of which encode unknown functions. An in-depth comparison between the genomes of the symbiotic Symbiodinium tridacnidorum (isolated from a coral) and the free-living Symbiodinium natans reveals a greater prevalence of transposable elements, genetic duplication, structural rearrangements, and pseudogenisation in the symbiotic species. Conclusions Our results underscore the potential impact of lifestyle on lineage-specific gene-function innovation, genome divergence, and the diversification of Symbiodinium and Symbiodiniaceae. The divergent features we report, and their putative causes, may also apply to other microbial eukaryotes that have undergone symbiotic phases in their evolutionary history.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  4. Background: Dinoflagellates in the family Symbiodiniaceae are important photosynthetic symbionts in cnidarians (such as corals) and other coral reef organisms. Breakdown of the coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis due to environmental stress (i.e. coral bleaching) can lead to coral death and the potential collapse of reef ecosystems. However, evolution of Symbiodiniaceae genomes, and its implications for the coral, is little understood. Genome sequences of Symbiodiniaceae remain scarce due in part to their large genome sizes (1–5 Gbp) and idiosyncratic genome features. Results: Here, we present de novo genome assemblies of seven members of the genus Symbiodinium, of which two are free-living, one ismore »an opportunistic symbiont, and the remainder are mutualistic symbionts. Integrating other available data, we compare 15 dinoflagellate genomes revealing high sequence and structural divergence. Divergence among some Symbiodinium isolates is comparable to that among distinct genera of Symbiodiniaceae. We also recovered hundreds of gene families specific to each lineage, many of which encode unknown functions. An in-depth comparison between the genomes of the symbiotic Symbiodinium tridacnidorum (isolated from a coral) and the free-living Symbiodinium natans reveals a greater prevalence of transposable elements, genetic duplication, structural rearrangements, and pseudogenisation in the symbiotic species. Conclusions: Our results underscore the potential impact of lifestyle on lineage-specific gene-function innovation, genome divergence, and the diversification of Symbiodinium and Symbiodiniaceae. The divergent features we report, and their putative causes, may also apply to other microbial eukaryotes that have undergone symbiotic phases in their evolutionary history.« less
  5. Understanding the response of the coral holobiont to environmental change is crucial to inform conservation efforts. The most pressing problem is “coral bleaching,” usually precipitated by prolonged thermal stress. We used untargeted, polar metabolite profiling to investigate the physiological response of the coral species Montipora capitata and Pocillopora acuta to heat stress. Our goal was to identify diagnostic markers present early in the bleaching response. From the untargeted UHPLC-MS data, a variety of co-regulated dipeptides were found that have the highest differential accumulation in both species. The structures of four dipeptides were determined and showed differential accumulation in symbiotic andmore »aposymbiotic (alga-free) populations of the sea anemone Aiptasia (Exaiptasia pallida), suggesting the deep evolutionary origins of these dipeptides and their involvement in symbiosis. These and other metabolites may be used as diagnostic markers for thermal stress in wild coral.« less
  6. Background Corals, which form the foundation of biodiverse reef ecosystems, are under threat from warming oceans. Reefs provide essential ecological services, including food, income from tourism, nutrient cycling, waste removal, and the absorption of wave energy to mitigate erosion. Here, we studied the coral thermal stress response using network methods to analyze transcriptomic and polar metabolomic data generated from the Hawaiian rice coral Montipora capitata . Coral nubbins were exposed to ambient or thermal stress conditions over a 5-week period, coinciding with a mass spawning event of this species. The major goal of our study was to expand the inventorymore »of thermal stress-related genes and metabolites present in M. capitata and to study gene-metabolite interactions. These interactions provide the foundation for functional or genetic analysis of key coral genes as well as provide potentially diagnostic markers of pre-bleaching stress. A secondary goal of our study was to analyze the accumulation of sex hormones prior to and during mass spawning to understand how thermal stress may impact reproductive success in M. capitata . Methods M. capitata was exposed to thermal stress during its spawning cycle over the course of 5 weeks, during which time transcriptomic and polar metabolomic data were collected. We analyzed these data streams individually, and then integrated both data sets using MAGI (Metabolite Annotation and Gene Integration) to investigate molecular transitions and biochemical reactions. Results Our results reveal the complexity of the thermal stress phenome in M. capitata , which includes many genes involved in redox regulation, biomineralization, and reproduction. The size and number of modules in the gene co-expression networks expanded from the initial stress response to the onset of bleaching. The later stages involved the suppression of metabolite transport by the coral host, including a variety of sodium-coupled transporters and a putative ammonium transporter, possibly as a response to reduction in algal productivity. The gene-metabolite integration data suggest that thermal treatment results in the activation of animal redox stress pathways involved in quenching molecular oxygen to prevent an overabundance of reactive oxygen species. Lastly, evidence that thermal stress affects reproductive activity was provided by the downregulation of CYP-like genes and the irregular production of sex hormones during the mass spawning cycle. Overall, redox regulation and metabolite transport are key components of the coral animal thermal stress phenome. Mass spawning was highly attenuated under thermal stress, suggesting that global climate change may negatively impact reproductive behavior in this species.« less
  7. Background. Reproductive biology and the evolutionary constraints acting on dispersal stages are poorly understood in many stony coral species. A key piece of missing information is egg and sperm gene expression. This is critical for broadcast spawning corals, such as our model, the Hawaiian species Montipora capitata, because eggs and sperm are exposed to environmental stressors during dispersal. Furthermore, parental effects such as transcriptome investment may provide a means for cross- or transgenerational plasticity and be apparent in egg and sperm transcriptome data. Methods. Here, we analyzed M. capitata egg and sperm transcriptomic data to address three questions: (1) Whichmore »pathways and functions are actively transcribed in these gametes? (2) How does sperm and egg gene expression differ from adult tissues? (3) Does gene expression differ between these gametes? Results. We show that egg and sperm display surprisingly similar levels of gene expression and overlapping functional enrichment patterns. These results may reflect similar environmental constraints faced by these motile gametes. We find significant differences in differential expression of egg vs. adult and sperm vs. adult RNA-seq data, in contrast to very few examples of differential expression when comparing egg vs. sperm transcriptomes. Lastly, using gene ontology and KEGG orthology data we show that both egg and sperm have markedly repressed transcription and translation machinery compared to the adult, suggesting a dependence on parental transcripts. We speculate that cell motility and calcium ion binding genes may be involved in gamete to gamete recognition in the water column and thus, fertilization.« less
  8. In order to develop successful strategies for coral reef preservation, it is critical that the biology of both host corals and symbiotic algae are investigated. In the Ryukyu Archipelago, which encompasses many islands spread over ∼500 km of the Pacific Ocean, four major populations of the coral Acropora digitifera have been studied using whole-genome shotgun (WGS) sequence analysis (Shinzato C, Mungpakdee S, Arakaki N, Satoh N. 2015. Genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis explains coral diversity and recovery in the Ryukyu Archipelago. Sci Rep. 5:18211.). In contrast, the diversity of the symbiotic dinoflagellates associated with these A. digitifera populations is unknown.more »It is therefore unclear if these two core components of the coral holobiont share a common evolutionary history. This issue can be addressed for the symbiotic algal populations by studying the organelle genomes of their mitochondria and plastids. Here, we analyzed WGS data from ∼150 adult A. digitifera, and by mapping reads to the available reference genome sequences, we extracted 2,250 sequences representing 15 organelle genes of Symbiodiniaceae. Molecular phylogenetic analyses of these mitochondrial and plastid gene sets revealed that A. digitifera from the southern Yaeyama islands harbor a different Symbiodiniaceae population than the islands of Okinawa and Kerama in the north, indicating that the distribution of symbiont populations partially matches that of the four host populations. Interestingly, we found that numerous SNPs correspond to known RNA-edited sites in 14 of the Symbiodiniaceae organelle genes, with mitochondrial genes showing a stronger correspondence than plastid genes. These results suggest a possible correlation between RNA editing and SNPs in the two organelle genomes of symbiotic dinoflagellates.« less
  9. 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
  10. 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