Expression of a symbiosis-specific gene in Symbiodinium type A1 associated with coral, nudibranch and giant clam larvae

M. Mies, Christian R. Voolstra, C. B. Castro, D. O. Pires, E. N. Calderon, P. Y. G. Sumida

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29 Scopus citations


Symbiodinium are responsible for the majority of primary production in coral reefs and found in a mutualistic symbiosis with multiple animal phyla. However, little is known about the molecular signals involved in the establishment of this symbiosis and whether it initiates during host larval development. To address this question, we monitored the expression of a putative symbiosis-specific gene (H+-ATPase) in Symbiodinium A1 ex hospite and in association with larvae of a scleractinian coral (Mussismilia hispida), a nudibranch (Berghia stephanieae) and a giant clam (Tridacna crocea). We acquired broodstock for each host, induced spawning and cultured the larvae. Symbiodinium cells were offered and larval samples taken for each host during the first 72 h after symbiont addition. In addition, control samples including free-living Symbiodinium and broodstock tissue containing symbionts for each host were collected. RNA extraction and RT-PCR were performed and amplified products cloned and sequenced. Our results show that H+-ATPase was expressed in Symbiodinium associated with coral and giant clam larvae, but not with nudibranch larvae, which digested the symbionts. Broodstock tissue for coral and giant clam also expressed H+-ATPase, but not the nudibranch tissue sample. Our results of the expression of H+-ATPase as a marker gene suggest that symbiosis between Symbiodinium and M. hispida and T. crocea is established during host larval development. Conversely, in the case of B. stephanieae larvae, evidence does not support a mutualistic relationship. Our study supports the utilization of H+-ATPase expression as a marker for assessing Symbiodinium-invertebrate relationships with applications for the differentiation of symbiotic and non-symbiotic associations. At the same time, insights from a single marker gene approach are limited and future studies should direct the identification of additional symbiosis-specific genes, ideally from both symbiont and host.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170253
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 24 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by Projeto Coral Vivo and sponsored by Petrobras and Arraial d'Ajuda Eco Parque. PYGS acknowledges grant nos. 302526/2012-9 and 2010/20350-8 from CNPq and FAPESP. We would like to express our most sincere thanks to Gustavo Duarte and the whole Coral Vivo Institute staff, Acqua Distribuidora for supplying giant clam broodstock, Diego Castillo for his technical assistance and Arthur Tenório for helping us run the cultures. Finally, we greatly thank the Genomes and Transposable Elements Laboratory for providing infrastructure and technical assistance in the experiments.


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