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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e57975. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057975. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

Comparative lipid profiling of the cnidarian Aiptasia pallida and its dinoflagellate symbiont.

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Department of Chemistry, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA.


Corals and other cnidarians house photosynthetic dinoflagellate symbionts within membrane-bound compartments inside gastrodermal cells. Nutritional interchanges between the partners produce carbohydrates and lipids for metabolism, growth, energy stores, and cellular structures. Although lipids play a central role in the both the energetics and the structural/morphological features of the symbiosis, previous research has primarily focused on the fatty acid and neutral lipid composition of the host and symbiont. In this study we conducted a mass spectrometry-based survey of the lipidomic changes associated with symbiosis in the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida, an important model system for coral symbiosis. Lipid extracts from A. pallida in and out of symbiosis with its symbiont Symbiodinium were prepared and analyzed using negative-ion electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Through this analysis we have identified, by exact mass and collision-induced dissociation mass spectrometry (MS/MS), several classes of glycerophospholipids in A. pallida. Several molecular species of di-acyl phosphatidylinositol and phosphatidylserine as well as 1-alkyl, 2-acyl phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and phosphatidycholine were identified. The 1-alkyl, 2-acyl PEs are acid sensitive suggestive that they are plasmalogen PEs possessing a double bond at the 1-position of the alkyl linked chain. In addition, we identified several molecular species of phosphonosphingolipids called ceramide aminoethylphosphonates in anemone lipid extracts by the release of a characteristic negative product ion at m/z 124.014 during MS/MS analysis. Sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerol (SQDG), an anionic lipid often found in photosynthetic organisms, was identified as a prominent component of Symbiodinium lipid extracts. A comparison of anemone lipid profiles revealed a subset of lipids that show dramatic differences in abundance when anemones are in the symbiotic state as compared to the non-symbiotic state. The data generated in this analysis will serve as a resource to further investigate the role of lipids in symbiosis between Symbiodinium and A. pallida.

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