Development of clade-specific Symbiodinium primers for quantitative PCR (qPCR) and their application to detecting clade D symbionts in Caribbean corals
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We developed quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays to distinguish each of the four clades (A–D) of dinoflagellate endosymbionts (genus Symbiodinium) commonly found in Caribbean corals. We applied these primer sets, which target portions of the multi-copy ribosomal DNA (rDNA) gene family, to assess the presence/absence of symbionts in clade D (as indicated by the detection of clade D DNA). We detected these symbionts in five of six Caribbean host species/genera (21% of samples analyzed, N = 10 of 47 colonies), from which clade D had rarely or never been observed. This suggests that Symbiodinium in clade D are present in a higher diversity of coral species than previously thought. This qPCR-based approach can improve our understanding of the total microbial diversity associated with corals, particularly in hosts thought to be relatively specific, and has many other potential applications for studies of coral reef ecology and conservation.