16 February 2015
Microorganisms in terrestrial and marine ecosystems are essential to environmental sustainability. In the marine environment, invertebrates often depend on metabolic cooperation with their endosymbionts. Coral reefs, one of the most important marine ecosystems, are based on the symbiosis between a broad diversity of dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium and a wide phyletic diversity of hosts ( i.e., cnidarian, molluscan, poriferan). This diversity is reflected in the ecology and physiology of the symbionts, yet the underlying biochemical mechanisms are still poorly understood. We examined metabolite profiles of four cultured species of Symbiodinium known to form viable symbioses with reef-building corals, S. microadriaticum (cp-type A194), S. minutum (cp-type B184), S. psygmophilum (cp-type B224) and S. trenchii (cp-type D206). Metabolite profiles were shown to differ among Symbiodinium species and were found to be affected by their physiological response to growth in different temperatures and light regimes. A combined Random Forests and Bayesian analysis revealed that the four Symbiodinium species examined primarily differed in their production of sterols and sugars, including a C 29 stanol and the two sterols C 28Δ 5 and C 28Δ 5,22, as well as differences in metabolite abundances of a hexose and inositol. Inositol levels were also strongly affected by changes in temperature across all Symbiodinium species. Our results offer a detailed view of the metabolite profile characteristic of marine symbiotic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium, and identify patterns of metabolites related to several growth conditions.