Research Area 1: SymbiOmics - Decoding Structure and Function of the coral metaorganism

Categories: Current Research


We are currently completing sequencing, assembly, and annotation of the coral hologenome of Stylophora pistillata, a cosmopolitan and common coral species that serves as a physiological model system in numerous studies. The availability of the complete gene set encoded in the genomes of the coral animal, the dinoflagellate symbiont, and the associated bacteria promises an unprecedented view on the composition, structure, and function of coral metaorganisms. These data will contribute to our understanding of the contribution of each holobiont member species and how it relates to metaorganism function. To this date, we have analyzed and published the transcriptomes of S. pistillata and its symbiont Symbiodinium microadriaticum. In addition to characterizing the expressed gene set, these studies were the first to identify and characterize miRNAs and the associated RNAi machinery in a coral and a Symbiodinium symbiont. We have also sequenced and published the microbiome of the coral Stylophora pistillata. This work has revealed a prevalent group of bacteria in the genus Endozoicomonas that reside deep within the coral tissue.


Photograph of Stylophora pistillata. Photography by Till Röthig, KAUST

Prof. Manuel Aranda, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
Prof. Denis Allemand, Dr. Christine Ferrier-Pages, Dr. Didier Zoccola, Dr. Sylvie Tambutte, Dr. Phillip Ganot​, Centre Scientifique Monaco, Monaco
Prof. Todd LaJeunesse, Penn State University, USA
Prof. Timothey Ravasi, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
Dr. Amy Apprill​, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

Currently involved from our lab
Prof. Christian R. Voolstra
Dr. Maren Ziegler
Dr. Matthew Neaves
Sebastian Baumgarten (Ph.D. student)​

Identification of MicroRNAs in the Coral Stylophora pistillata.
Y.J. Liew, M. Aranda, A. Carr, S. Baumgarten, D. Zoccola, S. Tambutté, D. Allemand, G. Micklem, C.R. Voolstra
PLOS ONE, Volume 9, Issue 3, e91101, (2014)

The Chloroplast Genome of a Symbiodinium sp. Clade C3 Isolate.
A.C. Barbrook, C.R. Voolstra, C.J. Howe
Protist 2014, Volume 165, Issue 1, 1-13, (2014)

Whole-Genome Sequences of Three Symbiotic Endozoicomonas Strains.
M.J. Neave, C.T. Michell, A. Apprill, C.R. Voolstra
Genome Announcements, Volume 2, Issue 4, e00802-14, (2014)​​

Integrating microRNA and mRNA expression profiling in Symbiodinium microdriaticum, a dinoflagellate symbiont of reef building corals.
S. Baumgarten, T. Bayer, M. Aranda, J.Y. Liew, A. Carr , G. Micklem, C.R. Voolstra
BMC Genomics, Volume 14, Issue 704, (2013)

The microbiome of the Red Sea coral Stylophora pistillata is dominated by tissue-associated Endozoicomonas bacteria.
T. Bayer, M.J. Neave, A. Alsheikh-Hussain, M. Aranda, L.K. Yum, T. Mincer, K. Hughen, A. Apprill, C.R. Voolstra
Applied Environmental Microbiology, Volume 79, Issue 15, 4759-62, (2013)