Host Specificity Among Closely Related Dinoflagellates: Using Autofluorescence to Enumerate Symbionts in Aiptasia Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/undergraduate_thesis_or_projects/5x21tm18p

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  • Symbiotic relationships between cnidarians and dinoflagellates within the genus Symbiodinium are critically important for the success of coral reefs. These symbionts provide their hosts with photosynthetically-fixed carbon in exchange for nutrients and shelter. Symbiodinium is a phylogenetically diverse genus that is often typed by sequencing the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region. However, this approach may miss fine-scale genetic differences among the types, which may have large functional importance. Here we examined differences in host specificity by inoculating aposymbiotic individuals of the sea anemone Aiptasia sp. with six different cultured strains of type “B1” Symbiodinium isolated from different cnidarian hosts. Infection was tracked over time using image analysis of Symbiodinium autofluorescence as a rapid and non-destructive proxy for cell counting. There were significant differences in infection rates among the different Symbiodinium strains compared to a B1 strain initially isolated from Aiptasia. Specifically, a strain cultured from the Caribbean octocoral Antillogorgia elisabethae had significantly lower infectivity compared to the native strain. This corresponded to larger genetic distance between these two cultures as diagnosed by restriction site associated DNA (RAD) sequencing of SNPs compared to other B1 cultures that infected at similar rates. This indicates high specificity between Aiptasia and Symbiodinium.
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