Comparative genomics explains the evolutionary success of reef-forming corals

Debashish Bhattacharya, Shobhit Agrawal, Manuel Aranda, Sebastian Baumgarten, Mahdi Belcaid, Jeana L. Drake, Douglas Erwin, Sylvian Foret, Ruth D. Gates, David F. Gruber, Bishoy Kamel, Michael P. Lesser, Oren Levy, Yi Jin Liew, Matthew MacManes, Tali Mass, Monica Medina, Shaadi Mehr, Eli Meyer, Dana C. PriceHollie M. Putnam, Huan Qiu, Chuya Shinzato, Eiichi Shoguchi, Alexander J. Stokes, Sylvie Tambutté, Dan Tchernov, Christian R. Voolstra, Nicole Wagner, Charles W. Walker, Andreas P.M. Weber, Virginia Weis, Ehud Zelzion, Didier Zoccola, Paul G. Falkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transcriptome and genome data from twenty stony coral species and a selection of reference bilaterians were studied to elucidate coral evolutionary history. We identified genes that encode the proteins responsible for the precipitation and aggregation of the aragonite skeleton on which the organisms live, and revealed a network of environmental sensors that coordinate responses of the host animals to temperature, light, and pH. Furthermore, we describe a variety of stress-related pathways, including apoptotic pathways that allow the host animals to detoxify reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that are generated by their intracellular photosynthetic symbionts, and determine the fate of corals under environmental stress. Some of these genes arose through horizontal gene transfer and comprise at least 0.2% of the animal gene inventory. Our analysis elucidates the evolutionary strategies that have allowed symbiotic corals to adapt and thrive for hundreds of millions of years.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13288
Issue numberMAY2016
StatePublished - 24 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Bhattacharya et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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