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1.  Retrieval of Missing Spliced Leader in Dinoflagellates 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(1):e4129.
Spliced leader (SL) trans-splicing has recently been shown to be a common mRNA processing mechanism in dinoflagellates, in which a short (22-nt) sequence, DCCGUAGCCAUUUUGGCUCAAG (D = U, A, or G), is transplanted from the 5′-end of a small non-coding RNA (SL RNA) to the 5′ end of mRNA molecules. The widespread existence of the mechanism in dinoflagellates has been demonstrated by detection of this SL (DinoSL) in a wide phylogenetic range of dinoflagellates. Furthermore, the presence of DinoSL in the transcripts of highly diverse groups of nuclear-encoded genes has led us to postulate that SL trans-splicing is universal in dinoflagellate nuclear genome. However, some observations inconsistent to this postulation have been reported, exemplified by a recent article reporting apparent absence of DinoSL in the transcripts of some nuclear-encoded genes in Amphidinium carterae. Absence of SL in these gene transcripts would have important implication on gene regulation in dinoflagellates and utility of DinoSL as a universal dinoflagellate-specific primer to study dinoflagellate transcriptomics. In this study, we re-examined transcripts of these genes and found that all of them actually contained DinoSL. Therefore, results to date are consistent to our initial postulation that DinoSL occurs in all dinoflagellate nuclear-encoded mRNAs.
PMCID: PMC2606063  PMID: 19122814
2.  Description of Two Species of Early Branching Dinoflagellates, Psammosa pacifica n. g., n. sp. and P. atlantica n. sp 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e34900.
In alveolate evolution, dinoflagellates have developed many unique features, including the cell that has epicone and hypocone, the undulating transverse flagellum. However, it remains unclear how these features evolved. The early branching dinoflagellates so far investigated such as Hematodinium, Amoebophrya and Oxyrrhis marina differ in many ways from of core dinoflagellates, or dinokaryotes. Except those handful of well studied taxa, the vast majority of early branching dinoflagellates are known only by environmental sequences, and remain enigmatic. In this study we describe two new species of the early branching dinoflagellates, Psammosa pacifica n. g., n. sp. and P. atlantica n. sp. from marine intertidal sandy beach. Molecular phylogeny of the small subunit (SSU) ribosomal RNA and Hsp90 gene places Psammosa spp. as an early branch among the dinoflagellates. Morphologically (1) they lack the typical dinoflagellate epicone–hypocone structure, and (2) undulation in either flagella. Instead they display a mosaïc of dinokaryotes traits, i.e. (3) presence of bi-partite trychocysts; Oxyrrhis marina–like traits, i.e. (4) presence of flagellar hairs, (5) presence of two-dimensional cobweb scales ornamenting both flagella (6) transversal cell division; a trait shared with some syndineansand Parvilucifera spp. i.e. (7) a nucleus with a conspicuous nucleolus and condensed chromatin distributed beneath the nuclear envelope; as well as Perkinsus marinus -like features i.e. (8) separate ventral grooves where flagella emerge and (9) lacking dinoflagellate-type undulating flagellum. Notably Psammosa retains an apical complex structure, which is shared between perkinsids, colpodellids, chromerids and apicomplexans, but is not found in dinokaryotic dinoflagellates.
PMCID: PMC3377698  PMID: 22719825
3.  Extensive frameshift at all AGG and CCC codons in the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene of Perkinsus marinus (Alveolata; Dinoflagellata) 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(18):6186-6194.
Diverse mitochondrial (mt) genetic systems have evolved independently of the more uniform nuclear system and often employ modified genetic codes. The organization and genetic system of dinoflagellate mt genomes are particularly unusual and remain an evolutionary enigma. We determined the sequence of full-length cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) mRNA of the earliest diverging dinoflagellate Perkinsus and show that this gene resides in the mt genome. Apparently, this mRNA is not translated in a single reading frame with standard codon usage. Our examination of the nucleotide sequence and three-frame translation of the mRNA suggest that the reading frame must be shifted 10 times, at every AGG and CCC codon, to yield a consensus COX1 protein. We suggest two possible mechanisms for these translational frameshifts: a ribosomal frameshift in which stalled ribosomes skip the first bases of these codons or specialized tRNAs recognizing non-triplet codons, AGGY and CCCCU. Regardless of the mechanism, active and efficient machinery would be required to tolerate the frameshifts predicted in Perkinsus mitochondria. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of translational frameshifts in protist mitochondria and, by far, is the most extensive case in mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC2952869  PMID: 20507907
4.  Red and Problematic Green Phylogenetic Signals among Thousands of Nuclear Genes from the Photosynthetic and Apicomplexa-Related Chromera velia 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2011;3:1220-1230.
The photosynthetic and basal apicomplexan Chromera velia was recently described, expanding the membership of this otherwise nonphotosynthetic group of parasite protists. Apicomplexans are alveolates with secondary plastids of red algal origin, but the evolutionary history of their nuclear genes is still actively discussed. Using deep sequencing of expressed genes, we investigated the phylogenetic affinities of a stringent filtered set of 3,151 expressed sequence tag-contigs by generating clusters with eukaryotic homologs and constructing phylogenetic trees and networks. The phylogenetic positioning of this alveolate alga was determined and sets of phyla-specific proteins extracted. Phylogenetic trees provided conflicting signals, with 444 trees grouping C. velia with the apicomplexans but 354 trees grouping C. velia with the alveolate oyster pathogen Perkinsus marinus, the latter signal being reinforced from the analysis of shared genes and overall sequence similarity. Among the 513 C. velia nuclear genes that reflect a photosynthetic ancestry and for which nuclear homologs were available both from red and green lineages, 263 indicated a red photosynthetic ancestry, whereas 250 indicated a green photosynthetic ancestry. The same 1:1 signal ratio was found among the putative 255 nuclear-encoded plastid proteins identified. This finding of red and green signals for the alveolate mirrors the result observed in the heterokont lineage and supports a common but not necessarily single origin for the plastid in heterokonts and alveolates. The inference of green endosymbiosis preceding red plastid acquisition in these lineages leads to worryingly complicated evolutionary scenarios, prompting the search for other explanations for the green phylogenetic signal and the amount of hosts involved.
PMCID: PMC3205606  PMID: 21965651
Chromera; Apicomplexa; Alveolata; chromalveolata; apicoplast; protist evolution
5.  Analysis of EST data of the marine protist Oxyrrhis marina, an emerging model for alveolate biology and evolution 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:122.
The alveolates include a large number of important lineages of protists and algae, among which are three major eukaryotic groups: ciliates, apicomplexans and dinoflagellates. Collectively alveolates are present in virtually every environment and include a vast diversity of cell shapes, molecular and cellular features and feeding modes including lifestyles such as phototrophy, phagotrophy/predation and intracellular parasitism, in addition to a variety of symbiotic associations. Oxyrrhis marina is a well-known model for heterotrophic protist biology, and is now emerging as a useful organism to explore the many changes that occurred during the origin and diversification of dinoflagellates by virtue of its phylogenetic position at the base of the dinoflagellate tree.
We have generated and analysed expressed sequence tag (EST) sequences from the alveolate Oxyrrhis marina in order to shed light on the evolution of a number of dinoflagellate characteristics, especially regarding the emergence of highly unusual genomic features. We found that O. marina harbours extensive gene redundancy, indicating high rates of gene duplication and transcription from multiple genomic loci. In addition, we observed a correlation between expression level and copy number in several genes, suggesting that copy number may contribute to determining transcript levels for some genes. Finally, we analyze the genes and predicted products of the recently discovered Dinoflagellate Viral Nuclear Protein, and several cases of horizontally acquired genes.
The dataset presented here has proven very valuable for studying this important group of protists. Our analysis indicates that gene redundancy is a pervasive feature of dinoflagellate genomes, thus the mechanisms involved in its generation must have arisen early in the evolution of the group.
PMCID: PMC3942190  PMID: 24512041
Dinoflagellates; Alveolates; Chromatin; Genome; Oxyrrhis
6.  Quantitative assessment of the proliferation of the protozoan parasite Perkinsus marinus using a bioluminescence assay for ATP content 
Graphical abstract
•Perkinsus marinus is a protozoan parasite that has devastated oyster populations in the USA.•Perkinsus marinus proliferation is inhibited by fluridone and atrazine.•Perkinsus marinus proliferation is inhibited by antibiotics.•The ATP-based assay can be used for the identification of leader compounds against Perkinsus and closely-related parasites.
Perkinsus marinus is a protozoan parasite that causes “Dermo” disease in the eastern oyster Crasssostrea virginica in coastal areas of the USA. Until now, intervention strategies against the parasite have found limited success, and Dermo still remains one of the main hurdles for the restoration of oyster populations. We adapted a commercial adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) content-based assay to assess the in vitro proliferation of P. marinus in a 96-well plate format, and validated the method by measuring the effects of potential anti-proliferative compounds. The sensitivity (1.5–3.1 × 104 cells/well), linearity (R2 = 0.983), and signal stability (60 min) support the reliability of the assay for assessing cell proliferation. Validation of the assay by culturing P. marinus in the presence of increasing concentrations of triclosan showed a dose–response profile. The IC50 value obtained was higher than that reported earlier, possibly due to the use of different viability assay methods and a different P. marinus strain. The antibiotics G418 and tetracycline and the herbicide fluridone were active against P. marinus proliferation; the IC50 of chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, and atrazine was relatively high suggesting either off-target effects or inability to reach the targets. The validation of the ATP-based assay, together with significant advantages of the Perkinsus culture methodology (homogeneity, reproducibility, and high cell densities), underscores the value of this assay for developing high-throughput screens for the identification of novel leader compounds against Perkinsus species, and most importantly, for the closely-related apicomplexan parasites.
PMCID: PMC3862420  PMID: 24533297
Antibiotics; Herbicides; Perkinsus; Plastid; Protozoan
7.  Dinoflagellate Spliced Leader RNA Genes Display a Variety of Sequences and Genomic Arrangements 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2009;26(8):1757-1771.
Spliced leader (SL) trans-splicing is a common mRNA processing mechanism in dinoflagellates, in which a 22-nt sequence is transferred from the 5′-end of a small noncoding RNA, the SL RNA, to the 5′-end of mRNA molecules. Although the SL RNA gene was shown initially to be organized as tandem repeats with transcripts of 50–60 nt, shorter than most of their counterparts in other organisms, other gene organizations and transcript lengths were reported subsequently. To address the evolutionary gradient of gene organization complexity, we thoroughly examined transcript and gene organization of the SL RNA in a phylogenetically and ecologically diverse group of dinoflagellates representing four Orders. All these dinoflagellates possessed SL RNA transcripts of 50–60 nt, although in one species additional transcripts of up to 92 nt were also detected. At the genomic level, various combinations of SL RNA and 5S rRNA tandem gene arrays, including SL RNA–only, 5S rRNA–only, and mixed SL RNA–5S rRNA (SL–5S) clusters, were amplified by polymerase chain reaction for six dinoflagellates, containing intergenic spacers ranging from 88 bp to over 1.2 kb. Of these species, no SL–5S cluster was detected in Prorocentrum minimum, and only Karenia brevis showed the U6 small nuclear RNA gene associated with these mixed arrays. The 5S rRNA–only array was also found in three dinoflagellates, along with two SL–5S-adjacent arrangements found in two other species that could represent junctions. Two species contained multimeric SL exon repeats with no associated intron. These results suggest that 1) both the SL RNA tandem repeat and the SL–5S cluster genomic organizations are an “ancient” and widespread feature within the phylum of dinoflagellates and 2) rampant genomic duplication and recombination are ongoing independently in each dinoflagellate lineage, giving rise to the highly complex and diversified genomic arrangements of the SL RNA gene, while conserving the length and structure of the functional SL RNA.
PMCID: PMC2734150  PMID: 19387009
Dinoflagellate; SL RNA; complex genomic arrangement
8.  The Alveolate Perkinsus marinus: Biological Insights from EST Gene Discovery 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:228.
Perkinsus marinus, a protozoan parasite of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica, has devastated natural and farmed oyster populations along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. It is classified as a member of the Perkinsozoa, a recently established phylum considered close to the ancestor of ciliates, dinoflagellates, and apicomplexans, and a key taxon for understanding unique adaptations (e.g. parasitism) within the Alveolata. Despite intense parasite pressure, no disease-resistant oysters have been identified and no effective therapies have been developed to date.
To gain insight into the biological basis of the parasite's virulence and pathogenesis mechanisms, and to identify genes encoding potential targets for intervention, we generated >31,000 5' expressed sequence tags (ESTs) derived from four trophozoite libraries generated from two P. marinus strains. Trimming and clustering of the sequence tags yielded 7,863 unique sequences, some of which carry a spliced leader. Similarity searches revealed that 55% of these had hits in protein sequence databases, of which 1,729 had their best hit with proteins from the chromalveolates (E-value ≤ 1e-5). Some sequences are similar to those proven to be targets for effective intervention in other protozoan parasites, and include not only proteases, antioxidant enzymes, and heat shock proteins, but also those associated with relict plastids, such as acetyl-CoA carboxylase and methyl erythrithol phosphate pathway components, and those involved in glycan assembly, protein folding/secretion, and parasite-host interactions.
Our transcriptome analysis of P. marinus, the first for any member of the Perkinsozoa, contributes new insight into its biology and taxonomic position. It provides a very informative, albeit preliminary, glimpse into the expression of genes encoding functionally relevant proteins as potential targets for chemotherapy, and evidence for the presence of a relict plastid. Further, although P. marinus sequences display significant similarity to those from both apicomplexans and dinoflagellates, the presence of trans-spliced transcripts confirms the previously established affinities with the latter. The EST analysis reported herein, together with the recently completed sequence of the P. marinus genome and the development of transfection methodology, should result in improved intervention strategies against dermo disease.
PMCID: PMC2868825  PMID: 20374649
9.  Diverse Bacterial PKS Sequences Derived From Okadaic Acid-Producing Dinoflagellates 
Marine Drugs  2008;6(2):164-179.
Okadaic acid (OA) and the related dinophysistoxins are isolated from dinoflagellates of the genus Prorocentrum and Dinophysis. Bacteria of the Roseobacter group have been associated with okadaic acid producing dinoflagellates and have been previously implicated in OA production. Analysis of 16S rRNA libraries reveals that Roseobacter are the most abundant bacteria associated with OA producing dinoflagellates of the genus Prorocentrum and are not found in association with non-toxic dinoflagellates. While some polyketide synthase (PKS) genes form a highly supported Prorocentrum clade, most appear to be bacterial, but unrelated to Roseobacter or Alpha-Proteobacterial PKSs or those derived from other Alveolates Karenia brevis or Crytosporidium parvum.
PMCID: PMC2525486  PMID: 18728765
okadaic acid; polyketide; polyketide synthase; biosynthesis; Roseobacter
10.  A Full Suite of Histone and Histone Modifying Genes Are Transcribed in the Dinoflagellate Lingulodinium 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34340.
Dinoflagellates typically lack histones and nucleosomes are not observed in DNA spreads. However, recent studies have shown the presence of core histone mRNA sequences scattered among different dinoflagellate species. To date, the presence of all components required for manufacturing and modifying nucleosomes in a single dinoflagellate species has not been confirmed.
Methodology and Results
Analysis of a Lingulodinium transcriptome obtained by Illumina sequencing of mRNA shows several different copies of each of the four core histones as well as a suite of histone modifying enzymes and histone chaperone proteins. Phylogenetic analysis shows one of each Lingulodinium histone copies belongs to the dinoflagellate clade while the second is more divergent and does not share a common ancestor. All histone mRNAs are in low abundance (roughly 25 times lower than higher plants) and transcript levels do not vary over the cell cycle. We also tested Lingulodinium extracts for histone proteins using immunoblotting and LC-MS/MS, but were unable to confirm histone expression at the protein level.
We show that all core histone sequences are present in the Lingulodinium transcriptome. The conservation of these sequences, even though histone protein accumulation remains below currently detectable levels, strongly suggests dinoflagellates possess histones.
PMCID: PMC3319573  PMID: 22496791
11.  When Naked Became Armored: An Eight-Gene Phylogeny Reveals Monophyletic Origin of Theca in Dinoflagellates 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50004.
The dinoflagellates are a diverse lineage of microbial eukaryotes. Dinoflagellate monophyly and their position within the group Alveolata are well established. However, phylogenetic relationships between dinoflagellate orders remain unresolved. To date, only a limited number of dinoflagellate studies have used a broad taxon sample with more than two concatenated markers. This lack of resolution makes it difficult to determine the evolution of major phenotypic characters such as morphological features or toxin production e.g. saxitoxin. Here we present an improved dinoflagellate phylogeny, based on eight genes, with the broadest taxon sampling to date. Fifty-five sequences for eight phylogenetic markers from nuclear and mitochondrial regions were amplified from 13 species, four orders, and concatenated phylogenetic inferences were conducted with orthologous sequences. Phylogenetic resolution is increased with addition of support for the deepest branches, though can be improved yet further. We show for the first time that the characteristic dinoflagellate thecal plates, cellulosic material that is present within the sub-cuticular alveoli, appears to have had a single origin. In addition, the monophyly of most dinoflagellate orders is confirmed: the Dinophysiales, the Gonyaulacales, the Prorocentrales, the Suessiales, and the Syndiniales. Our improved phylogeny, along with results of PCR to detect the sxtA gene in various lineages, allows us to suggest that this gene was probably acquired separately in Gymnodinium and the common ancestor of Alexandrium and Pyrodinium and subsequently lost in some descendent species of Alexandrium.
PMCID: PMC3501488  PMID: 23185516
12.  Hyperdiversity of Genes Encoding Integral Light-Harvesting Proteins in the Dinoflagellate Symbiodinium sp 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47456.
The superfamily of light-harvesting complex (LHC) proteins is comprised of proteins with diverse functions in light-harvesting and photoprotection. LHC proteins bind chlorophyll (Chl) and carotenoids and include a family of LHCs that bind Chl a and c. Dinophytes (dinoflagellates) are predominantly Chl c binding algal taxa, bind peridinin or fucoxanthin as the primary carotenoid, and can possess a number of LHC subfamilies. Here we report 11 LHC sequences for the chlorophyll a-chlorophyll c2-peridinin protein complex (acpPC) subfamily isolated from Symbiodinium sp. C3, an ecologically important peridinin binding dinoflagellate taxa. Phylogenetic analysis of these proteins suggests the acpPC subfamily forms at least three clades within the Chl a/c binding LHC family; Clade 1 clusters with rhodophyte, cryptophyte and peridinin binding dinoflagellate sequences, Clade 2 with peridinin binding dinoflagellate sequences only and Clades 3 with heterokontophytes, fucoxanthin and peridinin binding dinoflagellate sequences.
PMCID: PMC3480386  PMID: 23112815
13.  Evolutionary Acquisition and Loss of Saxitoxin Biosynthesis in Dinoflagellates: the Second “Core” Gene, sxtG 
Saxitoxin and its derivatives are potent neurotoxins produced by several cyanobacteria and dinoflagellate species. SxtA is the initial enzyme in the biosynthesis of saxitoxin. The dinoflagellate full mRNA and partial genomic sequences have previously been characterized, and it appears that sxtA originated in dinoflagellates through a horizontal gene transfer from a bacterium. So far, little is known about the remaining genes involved in this pathway in dinoflagellates. Here we characterize sxtG, an amidinotransferase enzyme gene that putatively encodes the second step in saxitoxin biosynthesis. In this study, the entire sxtG transcripts from Alexandrium fundyense CCMP1719 and Alexandrium minutum CCMP113 were amplified and sequenced. The transcripts contained typical dinoflagellate spliced leader sequences and eukaryotic poly(A) tails. In addition, partial sxtG transcript fragments were amplified from four additional Alexandrium species and Gymnodinium catenatum. The phylogenetic inference of dinoflagellate sxtG, congruent with sxtA, revealed a bacterial origin. However, it is not known if sxtG was acquired independently of sxtA. Amplification and sequencing of the corresponding genomic sxtG region revealed noncanonical introns. These introns show a high interspecies and low intraspecies variance, suggesting multiple independent acquisitions and losses. Unlike sxtA, sxtG was also amplified from Alexandrium species not known to synthesize saxitoxin. However, amplification was not observed for 22 non-saxitoxin-producing dinoflagellate species other than those of the genus Alexandrium or G. catenatum. This result strengthens our hypothesis that saxitoxin synthesis has been secondarily lost in conjunction with sxtA for some descendant species.
PMCID: PMC3623241  PMID: 23335767
14.  Dinoflagellate Phylogeny as Inferred from Heat Shock Protein 90 and Ribosomal Gene Sequences 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13220.
Interrelationships among dinoflagellates in molecular phylogenies are largely unresolved, especially in the deepest branches. Ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequences provide phylogenetic signals only at the tips of the dinoflagellate tree. Two reasons for the poor resolution of deep dinoflagellate relationships using rDNA sequences are (1) most sites are relatively conserved and (2) there are different evolutionary rates among sites in different lineages. Therefore, alternative molecular markers are required to address the deeper phylogenetic relationships among dinoflagellates. Preliminary evidence indicates that the heat shock protein 90 gene (Hsp90) will provide an informative marker, mainly because this gene is relatively long and appears to have relatively uniform rates of evolution in different lineages.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We more than doubled the previous dataset of Hsp90 sequences from dinoflagellates by generating additional sequences from 17 different species, representing seven different orders. In order to concatenate the Hsp90 data with rDNA sequences, we supplemented the Hsp90 sequences with three new SSU rDNA sequences and five new LSU rDNA sequences. The new Hsp90 sequences were generated, in part, from four additional heterotrophic dinoflagellates and the type species for six different genera. Molecular phylogenetic analyses resulted in a paraphyletic assemblage near the base of the dinoflagellate tree consisting of only athecate species. However, Noctiluca was never part of this assemblage and branched in a position that was nested within other lineages of dinokaryotes. The phylogenetic trees inferred from Hsp90 sequences were consistent with trees inferred from rDNA sequences in that the backbone of the dinoflagellate clade was largely unresolved.
The sequence conservation in both Hsp90 and rDNA sequences and the poor resolution of the deepest nodes suggests that dinoflagellates reflect an explosive radiation in morphological diversity in their recent evolutionary past. Nonetheless, the more comprehensive analysis of Hsp90 sequences enabled us to infer phylogenetic interrelationships of dinoflagellates more rigorously. For instance, the phylogenetic position of Noctiluca, which possesses several unusual features, was incongruent with previous phylogenetic studies. Therefore, the generation of additional dinoflagellate Hsp90 sequences is expected to refine the stem group of athecate species observed here and contribute to future multi-gene analyses of dinoflagellate interrelationships.
PMCID: PMC2951904  PMID: 20949037
15.  Real-Time PCR for Detection and Quantification of the Protistan Parasite Perkinsus marinus in Environmental Waters†  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(11):6611-6618.
The protistan parasite Perkinsus marinus is a severe pathogen of the oyster Crassostrea virginica along the east coast of the United States. Very few data have been collected, however, on the abundance of the parasite in environmental waters, limiting our understanding of P. marinus transmission dynamics. Real-time PCR assays with SybrGreen I as a label for detection were developed in this study for quantification of P. marinus in environmental waters with P. marinus species-specific primers and of Perkinsus spp. with Perkinsus genus-specific primers. Detection of DNA concentrations as low as the equivalent of 3.3 × 10−2 cell per 10-μl reaction mixture was obtained by targeting the multicopy internal transcribed spacer region of the genome. To obtain reliable target quantification from environmental water samples, removal of PCR inhibitors and efficient DNA recovery were two major concerns. A DNA extraction kit designed for tissues and another designed for stool samples were tested on environmental and artificial seawater (ASW) samples spiked with P. marinus cultured cells. The stool kit was significantly more efficient than the tissue kit at removing inhibitors from environmental water samples. With the stool kit, no significant difference in the quantified target concentrations was observed between the environmental and ASW samples. However, with the spiked ASW samples, the tissue kit demonstrated more efficient DNA recovery. Finally, by performing three elutions of DNA from the spin columns, which were combined prior to target quantification, variability of DNA recovery from different samples was minimized and more reliable real-time PCR quantification was accomplished.
PMCID: PMC525192  PMID: 15528525
16.  Comparative Genomic and Transcriptomic Characterization of the Toxigenic Marine Dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28012.
Many dinoflagellate species are notorious for the toxins they produce and ecological and human health consequences associated with harmful algal blooms (HABs). Dinoflagellates are particularly refractory to genomic analysis due to the enormous genome size, lack of knowledge about their DNA composition and structure, and peculiarities of gene regulation, such as spliced leader (SL) trans-splicing and mRNA transposition mechanisms. Alexandrium ostenfeldii is known to produce macrocyclic imine toxins, described as spirolides. We characterized the genome of A. ostenfeldii using a combination of transcriptomic data and random genomic clones for comparison with other dinoflagellates, particularly Alexandrium species. Examination of SL sequences revealed similar features as in other dinoflagellates, including Alexandrium species. SL sequences in decay indicate frequent retro-transposition of mRNA species. This probably contributes to overall genome complexity by generating additional gene copies. Sequencing of several thousand fosmid and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) ends yielded a wealth of simple repeats and tandemly repeated longer sequence stretches which we estimated to comprise more than half of the whole genome. Surprisingly, the repeats comprise a very limited set of 79–97 bp sequences; in part the genome is thus a relatively uniform sequence space interrupted by coding sequences. Our genomic sequence survey (GSS) represents the largest genomic data set of a dinoflagellate to date. Alexandrium ostenfeldii is a typical dinoflagellate with respect to its transcriptome and mRNA transposition but demonstrates Alexandrium-like stop codon usage. The large portion of repetitive sequences and the organization within the genome is in agreement with several other studies on dinoflagellates using different approaches. It remains to be determined whether this unusual composition is directly correlated to the exceptionally genome organization of dinoflagellates with a low amount of histones and histone-like proteins.
PMCID: PMC3229502  PMID: 22164224
17.  The Mitochondrial Genome and Transcriptome of the Basal Dinoflagellate Hematodinium sp.: Character Evolution within the Highly Derived Mitochondrial Genomes of Dinoflagellates 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2011;4(1):59-72.
The sister phyla dinoflagellates and apicomplexans inherited a drastically reduced mitochondrial genome (mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA) containing only three protein-coding (cob, cox1, and cox3) genes and two ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes. In apicomplexans, single copies of these genes are encoded on the smallest known mtDNA chromosome (6 kb). In dinoflagellates, however, the genome has undergone further substantial modifications, including massive genome amplification and recombination resulting in multiple copies of each gene and gene fragments linked in numerous combinations. Furthermore, protein-encoding genes have lost standard stop codons, trans-splicing of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) is required to generate complete cox3 transcripts, and extensive RNA editing recodes most genes. From taxa investigated to date, it is unclear when many of these unusual dinoflagellate mtDNA characters evolved. To address this question, we investigated the mitochondrial genome and transcriptome character states of the deep branching dinoflagellate Hematodinium sp. Genomic data show that like later-branching dinoflagellates Hematodinium sp. also contains an inflated, heavily recombined genome of multicopy genes and gene fragments. Although stop codons are also lacking for cox1 and cob, cox3 still encodes a conventional stop codon. Extensive editing of mRNAs also occurs in Hematodinium sp. The mtDNA of basal dinoflagellate Hematodinium sp. indicates that much of the mtDNA modification in dinoflagellates occurred early in this lineage, including genome amplification and recombination, and decreased use of standard stop codons. Trans-splicing, on the other hand, occurred after Hematodinium sp. diverged. Only RNA editing presents a nonlinear pattern of evolution in dinoflagellates as this process occurs in Hematodinium sp. but is absent in some later-branching taxa indicating that this process was either lost in some lineages or developed more than once during the evolution of the highly unusual dinoflagellate mtDNA.
PMCID: PMC3268668  PMID: 22113794
mitochondrion; Apicomplexa; RNA editing; organelle genome
18.  Complete genome sequence of Rhodothermus marinus type strain (R-10T) 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2009;1(3):283-290.
Rhodothermus marinus Alfredsson et al. 1995 is the type species of the genus and is of phylogenetic interest because the Rhodothermaceae represent the deepest lineage in the phylum Bacteroidetes. R. marinus R-10T is a Gram-negative, non-motile, non-spore-forming bacterium isolated from marine hot springs off the coast of Iceland. Strain R-10T is strictly aerobic and requires slightly halophilic conditions for growth. Here we describe the features of this organism, together with the complete genome sequence, and annotation. This is the first complete genome sequence of the genus Rhodothermus, and only the second sequence from members of the family Rhodothermaceae. The 3,386,737 bp genome (including a 125 kb plasmid) with its 2914 protein-coding and 48 RNA genes is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project.
PMCID: PMC3035238  PMID: 21304669
thermophile; alkaliphile; nonmotile; non-sporulating; aerobic; heterotroph; Sphingobacteriales; Rhodothermaceae
19.  Evaluating the Ribosomal Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) as a Candidate Dinoflagellate Barcode Marker 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42780.
DNA barcoding offers an efficient way to determine species identification and to measure biodiversity. For dinoflagellates, an ancient alveolate group of about 2000 described extant species, DNA barcoding studies have revealed large amounts of unrecognized species diversity, most of which is not represented in culture collections. To date, two mitochondrial gene markers, Cytochrome Oxidase I (COI) and Cytochrome b oxidase (COB), have been used to assess DNA barcoding in dinoflagellates, and both failed to amplify all taxa and suffered from low resolution. Nevertheless, both genes yielded many examples of morphospecies showing cryptic speciation and morphologically distinct named species being genetically similar, highlighting the need for a common marker. For example, a large number of cultured Symbiodinium strains have neither taxonomic identification, nor a common measure of diversity that can be used to compare this genus to other dinoflagellates.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the Internal Transcribed Spacer units 1 and 2 (ITS) of the rDNA operon, as a high resolution marker for distinguishing species dinoflagellates in culture. In our study, from 78 different species, the ITS barcode clearly differentiated species from genera and could identify 96% of strains to a known species or sub-genus grouping. 8.3% showed evidence of being cryptic species. A quarter of strains identified had no previous species identification. The greatest levels of hidden biodiversity came from Scrippsiella and the Pfiesteriaceae family, whilst Heterocapsa strains showed a high level of mismatch to their given species name.
The ITS marker was successful in confirming species, revealing hidden diversity in culture collections. This marker, however, may have limited use for environmental barcoding due to paralogues, the potential for unidentifiable chimaeras and priming across taxa. In these cases ITS would serve well in combination with other markers or for specific taxon studies.
PMCID: PMC3420951  PMID: 22916158
20.  Putative Monofunctional Type I Polyketide Synthase Units: A Dinoflagellate-Specific Feature? 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48624.
Marine dinoflagellates (alveolata) are microalgae of which some cause harmful algal blooms and produce a broad variety of most likely polyketide synthesis derived phycotoxins. Recently, novel polyketide synthesase (PKS) transcripts have been described from the Florida red tide dinoflagellate Karenia brevis (gymnodiniales) which are evolutionarily related to Type I PKS but were apparently expressed as monofunctional proteins, a feature typical of Type II PKS. Here, we investigated expression units of PKS I-like sequences in Alexandrium ostenfeldii (gonyaulacales) and Heterocapsa triquetra (peridiniales) at the transcript and protein level. The five full length transcripts we obtained were all characterized by polyadenylation, a 3′ UTR and the dinoflagellate specific spliced leader sequence at the 5′end. Each of the five transcripts encoded a single ketoacylsynthase (KS) domain showing high similarity to K. brevis KS sequences. The monofunctional structure was also confirmed using dinoflagellate specific KS antibodies in Western Blots. In a maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis of KS domains from diverse PKSs, dinoflagellate KSs formed a clade placed well within the protist Type I PKS clade between apicomplexa, haptophytes and chlorophytes. These findings indicate that the atypical PKS I structure, i.e., expression as putative monofunctional units, might be a dinoflagellate specific feature. In addition, the sequenced transcripts harbored a previously unknown, apparently dinoflagellate specific conserved N-terminal domain. We discuss the implications of this novel region with regard to the putative monofunctional organization of Type I PKS in dinoflagellates.
PMCID: PMC3489724  PMID: 23139807
21.  Signature proteins for the major clades of Cyanobacteria 
The phylogeny and taxonomy of cyanobacteria is currently poorly understood due to paucity of reliable markers for identification and circumscription of its major clades.
A combination of phylogenomic and protein signature based approaches was used to characterize the major clades of cyanobacteria. Phylogenetic trees were constructed for 44 cyanobacteria based on 44 conserved proteins. In parallel, Blastp searches were carried out on each ORF in the genomes of Synechococcus WH8102, Synechocystis PCC6803, Nostoc PCC7120, Synechococcus JA-3-3Ab, Prochlorococcus MIT9215 and Prochlor. marinus subsp. marinus CCMP1375 to identify proteins that are specific for various main clades of cyanobacteria. These studies have identified 39 proteins that are specific for all (or most) cyanobacteria and large numbers of proteins for other cyanobacterial clades. The identified signature proteins include: (i) 14 proteins for a deep branching clade (Clade A) of Gloebacter violaceus and two diazotrophic Synechococcus strains (JA-3-3Ab and JA2-3-B'a); (ii) 5 proteins that are present in all other cyanobacteria except those from Clade A; (iii) 60 proteins that are specific for a clade (Clade C) consisting of various marine unicellular cyanobacteria (viz. Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus); (iv) 14 and 19 signature proteins that are specific for the Clade C Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus strains, respectively; (v) 67 proteins that are specific for the Low B/A ecotype Prochlorococcus strains, containing lower ratio of chl b/a2 and adapted to growth at high light intensities; (vi) 65 and 8 proteins that are specific for the Nostocales and Chroococcales orders, respectively; and (vii) 22 and 9 proteins that are uniquely shared by various Nostocales and Oscillatoriales orders, or by these two orders and the Chroococcales, respectively. We also describe 3 conserved indels in flavoprotein, heme oxygenase and protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase proteins that are specific for either Clade C cyanobacteria or for various subclades of Prochlorococcus. Many other conserved indels for cyanobacterial clades have been described recently.
These signature proteins and indels provide novel means for circumscription of various cyanobacterial clades in clear molecular terms. Their functional studies should lead to discovery of novel properties that are unique to these groups of cyanobacteria.
PMCID: PMC2823733  PMID: 20100331
22.  Broad genomic and transcriptional analysis reveals a highly derived genome in dinoflagellate mitochondria 
BMC Biology  2007;5:41.
Dinoflagellates comprise an ecologically significant and diverse eukaryotic phylum that is sister to the phylum containing apicomplexan endoparasites. The mitochondrial genome of apicomplexans is uniquely reduced in gene content and size, encoding only three proteins and two ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) within a highly compacted 6 kb DNA. Dinoflagellate mitochondrial genomes have been comparatively poorly studied: limited available data suggest some similarities with apicomplexan mitochondrial genomes but an even more radical type of genomic organization. Here, we investigate structure, content and expression of dinoflagellate mitochondrial genomes.
From two dinoflagellates, Crypthecodinium cohnii and Karlodinium micrum, we generated over 42 kb of mitochondrial genomic data that indicate a reduced gene content paralleling that of mitochondrial genomes in apicomplexans, i.e., only three protein-encoding genes and at least eight conserved components of the highly fragmented large and small subunit rRNAs. Unlike in apicomplexans, dinoflagellate mitochondrial genes occur in multiple copies, often as gene fragments, and in numerous genomic contexts. Analysis of cDNAs suggests several novel aspects of dinoflagellate mitochondrial gene expression. Polycistronic transcripts were found, standard start codons are absent, and oligoadenylation occurs upstream of stop codons, resulting in the absence of termination codons. Transcripts of at least one gene, cox3, are apparently trans-spliced to generate full-length mRNAs. RNA substitutional editing, a process previously identified for mRNAs in dinoflagellate mitochondria, is also implicated in rRNA expression.
The dinoflagellate mitochondrial genome shares the same gene complement and fragmentation of rRNA genes with its apicomplexan counterpart. However, it also exhibits several unique characteristics. Most notable are the expansion of gene copy numbers and their arrangements within the genome, RNA editing, loss of stop codons, and use of trans-splicing.
PMCID: PMC2151934  PMID: 17897476
23.  A phylogenetic mosaic plastid proteome and unusual plastid-targeting signals in the green-colored dinoflagellate Lepidodinium chlorophorum 
Plastid replacements through secondary endosymbioses include massive transfer of genes from the endosymbiont to the host nucleus and require a new targeting system to enable transport of the plastid-targeted proteins across 3-4 plastid membranes. The dinoflagellates are the only eukaryotic lineage that has been shown to have undergone several plastid replacement events, and this group is thus highly relevant for studying the processes involved in plastid evolution. In this study, we analyzed the phylogenetic origin and N-terminal extensions of plastid-targeted proteins from Lepidodinium chlorophorum, a member of the only dinoflagellate genus that harbors a green secondary plastid rather than the red algal-derived, peridinin-containing plastid usually found in photosynthetic dinoflagellates.
We sequenced 4,746 randomly picked clones from a L. chlorophorum cDNA library. 22 of the assembled genes were identified as genes encoding proteins functioning in plastids. Some of these were of green algal origin. This confirms that genes have been transferred from the plastid to the host nucleus of L. chlorophorum and indicates that the plastid is fully integrated as an organelle in the host. Other nuclear-encoded plastid-targeted protein genes, however, are clearly not of green algal origin, but have been derived from a number of different algal groups, including dinoflagellates, streptophytes, heterokonts, and red algae. The characteristics of N-terminal plastid-targeting peptides of all of these genes are substantially different from those found in peridinin-containing dinoflagellates and green algae.
L. chlorophorum expresses plastid-targeted proteins with a range of different origins, which probably arose through endosymbiotic gene transfer (EGT) and horizontal gene transfer (HGT). The N-terminal extension of the genes is different from the extensions found in green alga and other dinoflagellates (peridinin- and haptophyte plastids). These modifications have likely enabled the mosaic proteome of L. chlorophorum.
PMCID: PMC3055265  PMID: 20565933
24.  The transcriptome of the novel dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina (Alveolata: Dinophyceae): response to salinity examined by 454 sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:519.
The heterotrophic dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina is increasingly studied in experimental, ecological and evolutionary contexts. Its basal phylogenetic position within the dinoflagellates make O. marina useful for understanding the origin of numerous unusual features of the dinoflagellate lineage; its broad distribution has lent O. marina to the study of protist biogeography; and nutritive flexibility and eurytopy have made it a common lab rat for the investigation of physiological responses of marine heterotrophic flagellates. Nevertheless, genome-scale resources for O. marina are scarce. Here we present a 454-based transcriptome survey for this organism. In addition, we assess sequence read abundance, as a proxy for gene expression, in response to salinity, an environmental factor potentially important in determining O. marina spatial distributions.
Sequencing generated ~57 Mbp of data which assembled into 7, 398 contigs. Approximately 24% of contigs were nominally identified by BLAST. A further clustering of contigs (at ≥ 90% identity) revealed 164 transcript variant clusters, the largest of which (Phosphoribosylaminoimidazole-succinocarboxamide synthase) was composed of 28 variants displaying predominately synonymous variation. In a genomic context, a sample of 5 different genes were demonstrated to occur as tandem repeats, separated by short (~200-340 bp) inter-genic regions. For HSP90 several intergenic variants were detected suggesting a potentially complex genomic arrangement. In response to salinity, analysis of 454 read abundance highlighted 9 and 20 genes over or under expressed at 50 PSU, respectively. However, 454 read abundance and subsequent qPCR validation did not correlate well - suggesting that measures of gene expression via ad hoc analysis of sequence read abundance require careful interpretation.
Here we indicate that tandem gene arrangements and the occurrence of multiple transcribed gene variants are common and indicate potentially complex genomic arrangements in O. marina. Comparison of the reported data set with existing O. marina and other dinoflagellates ESTs indicates little sequence overlap likely as a result of the relatively limited extent of genome scale sequence data currently available for the dinoflagellates. This is one of the first 454-based transcriptome surveys of an ancestral dinoflagellate taxon and will undoubtedly prove useful for future comparative studies aimed at reconstructing the origin of novel features of the dinoflagellates.
PMCID: PMC3209475  PMID: 22014029
25.  Aerobic Anoxygenic Photosynthesis in Roseobacter Clade Bacteria from Diverse Marine Habitats 
The marine Roseobacter clade comprises several genera of marine bacteria related to the uncultured SAR83 cluster, the second most abundant marine picoplankton lineage. Cultivated representatives of this clade are physiologically heterogeneous, and only some have the capability for aerobic anoxygenic photosynthesis, a process of potentially great ecological importance in the world's oceans. In an attempt to correlate phylogeny with ecology, we investigated the diversity of Roseobacter clade strains from various marine habitats (water samples, biofilms, laminariae, diatoms, and dinoflagellate cultures) by using the 16S rRNA gene as a phylogenetic marker gene. The potential for aerobic anoxygenic photosynthesis was determined on the genetic level by PCR amplification and sequencing of the pufLM genes of the bacterial photosynthesis reaction center and on the physiological level by detection of bacteriochlorophyll (Bchl) a. A collection of ca. 1,000 marine isolates was screened for members of the marine Roseobacter clade by 16S rRNA gene-directed multiplex PCR and sequencing. The 42 Roseobacter clade isolates found tended to form habitat-specific subclusters. The pufLM genes were detected in two groups of strains from dinoflagellate cultures but in none of the other Roseobacter clade isolates. Strains within the first group (the DFL-12 cluster) also synthesized Bchl a. Strains within the second group (the DFL-35 cluster) formed a new species of Roseovarius and did not produce Bchl a under the conditions investigated here, thus demonstrating the importance of genetic methods for screening of cultivation-dependent metabolic traits. The pufL genes of the dinoflagellate isolates were phylogenetically closely related to pufL genes from Betaproteobacteria, confirming similar previous observations which have been interpreted as indications of gene transfer events.
PMCID: PMC194994  PMID: 12957886

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