The Symbiodinium kawagutii genome illuminates dinoflagellate gene expression and coral symbiosis

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 691-694
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0408

Symbionts are adapted to work with corals

Many corals have formed mutualistic associations with dinoflagellate symbionts, which are thought to provide nutrients and other benefits. To examine the underlying genetics of this association, S. Lin et al. sequenced the genome of the endosymbiont dinoflagellate Symbiodinium kawagutii. The genome includes gene number expansions and encodes microRNAs that show complementarity to genes within the coral genome. Such microRNAs may be involved in regulating coral genes. Furthermore, coral and S. kawagutii appear to share homologs of genes encoding specific nutrient transporters. The findings shed light on how symbiosis is established and maintained between dinoflagellates and corals.

Science, this issue p. 691


Dinoflagellates are important components of marine ecosystems and essential coral symbionts, yet little is known about their genomes. We report here on the analysis of a high-quality assembly from the 1180-megabase genome of Symbiodinium kawagutii. We annotated protein-coding genes and identified Symbiodinium-specific gene families. No whole-genome duplication was observed, but instead we found active (retro)transposition and gene family expansion, especially in processes important for successful symbiosis with corals. We also documented genes potentially governing sexual reproduction and cyst formation, novel promoter elements, and a microRNA system potentially regulating gene expression in both symbiont and coral. We found biochemical complementarity between genomes of S. kawagutii and the anthozoan Acropora, indicative of host-symbiont coevolution, providing a resource for studying the molecular basis and evolution of coral symbiosis.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science