The MicroRNA Repertoire of Symbiodinium, the Dinoflagellate Symbiont of Reef-Building Corals

  • Sebastian Baumgarten

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Animal and plant genomes produce numerous small RNAs (smRNAs) that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally affecting metabolism, development, and epigenetic inheritance. In order to characterize the repertoire of endogenous microRNAs and potential gene targets, we conducted smRNA and mRNA expression profiling over nine experimental treatments of cultures from the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium sp. A1, a photosynthetic symbiont of scleractinian corals. We identified a total of 75 novel smRNAs in Symbiodinum sp. A1 that share stringent key features with functional microRNAs from other model organisms. A subset of 38 smRNAs was predicted independently over all nine treatments and their putative gene targets were identified. We found 3,187 animal-like target sites in the 3’UTRs of 12,858 mRNAs and 53 plantlike target sites in 51,917 genes. Furthermore, we identified the core RNAi protein machinery in Symbiodinium. Integration of smRNA and mRNA expression profiling identified a variety of processes that could be under microRNA control, e.g. regulation of translation, DNA modification, and chromatin silencing. Given that Symbiodinium seems to have a paucity of transcription factors and differentially expressed genes, identification and characterization of its smRNA repertoire establishes the possibility of a range of gene regulatory mechanisms in dinoflagellates acting post-transcriptionally.
Date of AwardJul 2013
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorChristian Voolstra (Supervisor)


  • Symbiodinium
  • microRNA
  • small interfering RNA
  • scleractinian coral
  • dinoflagellate
  • symbiont

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