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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38253. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038253. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Genetic diversity, morphological uniformity and polyketide production in dinoflagellates (Amphidinium, Dinoflagellata).

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  • 1School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences and Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, University of New South Wales, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


Dinoflagellates are an intriguing group of eukaryotes, showing many unusual morphological and genetic features. Some groups of dinoflagellates are morphologically highly uniform, despite indications of genetic diversity. The species Amphidinium carterae is abundant and cosmopolitan in marine environments, grows easily in culture, and has therefore been used as a 'model' dinoflagellate in research into dinoflagellate genetics, polyketide production and photosynthesis. We have investigated the diversity of 'cryptic' species of Amphidinium that are morphologically similar to A. carterae, including the very similar species Amphidinium massartii, based on light and electron microscopy, two nuclear gene regions (LSU rDNA and ITS rDNA) and one mitochondrial gene region (cytochrome b). We found that six genetically distinct cryptic species (clades) exist within the species A. massartii and four within A. carterae, and that these clades differ from one another in molecular sequences at levels comparable to other dinoflagellate species, genera or even families. Using primers based on an alignment of alveolate ketosynthase sequences, we isolated partial ketosynthase genes from several Amphidinium species. We compared these genes to known dinoflagellate ketosynthase genes and investigated the evolution and diversity of the strains of Amphidinium that produce them.

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