Bicarbonate transporters in corals point towards a key step in the evolution of cnidarian calcification

Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 4;5:9983. doi: 10.1038/srep09983.


The bicarbonate ion (HCO3(-)) is involved in two major physiological processes in corals, biomineralization and photosynthesis, yet no molecular data on bicarbonate transporters are available. Here, we characterized plasma membrane-type HCO3(-) transporters in the scleractinian coral Stylophora pistillata. Eight solute carrier (SLC) genes were found in the genome: five homologs of mammalian-type SLC4 family members, and three of mammalian-type SLC26 family members. Using relative expression analysis and immunostaining, we analyzed the cellular distribution of these transporters and conducted phylogenetic analyses to determine the extent of conservation among cnidarian model organisms. Our data suggest that the SLC4γ isoform is specific to scleractinian corals and responsible for supplying HCO3(-) to the site of calcification. Taken together, SLC4γ appears to be one of the key genes for skeleton building in corals, which bears profound implications for our understanding of coral biomineralization and the evolution of scleractinian corals within cnidarians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anion Transport Proteins / chemistry
  • Anion Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Anion Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Anthozoa / classification
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Bicarbonates / metabolism*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Calcification, Physiologic*
  • Gene Order
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Anion Transport Proteins
  • Bicarbonates
  • Protein Isoforms