De novo transcriptomes of a mixotrophic and a heterotrophic ciliate from marine plankton

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 1;9(7):e101418. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101418. eCollection 2014.


Studying non-model organisms is crucial in the context of the current development of genomics and transcriptomics for both physiological experimentation and environmental characterization. We investigated the transcriptomes of two marine planktonic ciliates, the mixotrophic oligotrich Strombidium rassoulzadegani and the heterotrophic choreotrich Strombidinopsis sp., and their respective algal food using Illumina RNAseq. Our aim was to characterize the transcriptomes of these contrasting ciliates and to identify genes potentially involved in mixotrophy. We detected approximately 10,000 and 7,600 amino acid sequences for S. rassoulzadegani and Strombidinopsis sp., respectively. About half of these transcripts had significant BLASTP hits (E-value <10-6) against previously-characterized sequences, mostly from the model ciliate Oxytricha trifallax. Transcriptomes from both the mixotroph and the heterotroph species provided similar annotations for GO terms and KEGG pathways. Most of the identified genes were related to housekeeping activity and pathways such as the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, nucleotides, and vitamins. Although S. rassoulzadegani can keep and use chloroplasts from its prey, we did not find genes clearly linked to chloroplast maintenance and functioning in the transcriptome of this ciliate. While chloroplasts are known sources of reactive oxygen species (ROS), we found the same complement of antioxidant pathways in both ciliates, except for one enzyme possibly linked to ascorbic acid recycling found exclusively in the mixotroph. Contrary to our expectations, we did not find qualitative differences in genes potentially related to mixotrophy. However, these transcriptomes will help to establish a basis for the evaluation of differential gene expression in oligotrichs and choreotrichs and experimental investigation of the costs and benefits of mixotrophy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciliophora / genetics*
  • Ciliophora / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome / physiology*
  • Zooplankton / genetics*
  • Zooplankton / metabolism*

Grant support

This research was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF2637 to NCGR and by the US National Science Foundation through Grant OCE1130033 to GBM. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.