The phylum of dinoflagellates is characterized by many unusual and interesting genomic and physiological features, the imprint of which, in its immense genome, remains elusive. Much novel understanding has been achieved in the last decade on various aspects of dinoflagellate biology, but most remarkably about the structure, expression pattern and epigenetic modification of protein-coding genes in the nuclear and organellar genomes. Major findings include: 1) the great diversity of dinoflagellates, especially at the base of the dinoflagellate tree of life; 2) mini-circularization of the genomes of typical dinoflagellate plastids (with three membranes, chlorophylls a, c1 and c2, and carotenoid peridinin), the scrambled mitochondrial genome and the extensive mRNA editing occurring in both systems; 3) ubiquitous spliced leader trans-splicing of nuclear-encoded mRNA and demonstrated potential as a novel tool for studying dinoflagellate transcriptomes in mixed cultures and natural assemblages; 4) existence and expression of histones and other nucleosomal proteins; 5) a ribosomal protein set expected of typical eukaryotes; 6) genetic potential of non-photosynthetic solar energy utilization via proton-pump rhodopsin; 7) gene candidates in the toxin synthesis pathways; and 8) evidence of a highly redundant, high gene number and highly recombined genome. Despite this progress, much more work awaits genome-wide transcriptome and whole genome sequencing in order to unfold the molecular mechanisms underlying the numerous mysterious attributes of dinoflagellates.
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