Sex in Symbiodiniaceae dinoflagellates: genomic evidence for independent loss of the canonical synaptonemal complex

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 17;10(1):9792. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-66429-4.


Dinoflagellates of the Symbiodiniaceae family encompass diverse symbionts that are critical to corals and other species living in coral reefs. It is well known that sexual reproduction enhances adaptive evolution in changing environments. Although genes related to meiotic functions were reported in Symbiodiniaceae, cytological evidence of meiosis and fertilisation are however yet to be observed in these taxa. Using transcriptome and genome data from 21 Symbiodiniaceae isolates, we studied genes that encode proteins associated with distinct stages of meiosis and syngamy. We report the absence of genes that encode main components of the synaptonemal complex (SC), a protein structure that mediates homologous chromosomal pairing and class I crossovers. This result suggests an independent loss of canonical SCs in the alveolates, that also includes the SC-lacking ciliates. We hypothesise that this loss was due in part to permanently condensed chromosomes and repeat-rich sequences in Symbiodiniaceae (and other dinoflagellates) which favoured the SC-independent class II crossover pathway. Our results reveal novel insights into evolution of the meiotic molecular machinery in the ecologically important Symbiodiniaceae and in other eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Codon Usage
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Dinoflagellida / genetics
  • Dinoflagellida / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genome, Protozoan
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sex
  • Synaptonemal Complex / genetics*