Comparative genomics explains the evolutionary success of reef-forming corals

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  • Transcriptome and genome data from twenty stony coral species and a selection of reference bilaterians were studied to elucidate coral evolutionary history. We identified genes that encode the proteins responsible for the precipitation and aggregation of the aragonite skeleton on which the organisms live, and revealed a network of environmental sensors that coordinate responses of the host animals to temperature, light, and pH. Furthermore, we describe a variety of stress-related pathways, including apoptotic pathways that allow the host animals to detoxify reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that are generated by their intracellular photosynthetic symbionts, and determine the fate of corals under environmental stress. Some of these genes arose through horizontal gene transfer and comprise at least 0.2% of the animal gene inventory. Our analysis elucidates the evolutionary strategies that have allowed symbiotic corals to adapt and thrive for hundreds of millions of years.
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  • Bhattacharya, D., Agrawal, S., Aranda, M., Baumgarten, S., Belcaid, M., Drake, J. L., ... & Falkowski, P. G. (2016). Comparative genomics explains the evolutionary success of reef-forming corals. eLife, 5, e13288. doi:10.7554/eLife.13288
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  • 5
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  • This work was made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation, EF-1041143/RU 432635 and EF-1416785 awarded to PGF, DB, and TM, respectively. RDG, HMP, and AJS were supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, NIMHD P20MD006084, the Hawaii Community Foundation, Leahi Fund 13ADVC-60228 and NSF OCE PRF 1323822 and National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research Hawaii: EPS-0903833. CRV and MA acknowledge funding by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).
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