Exploring dinoflagellate biology with high-throughput proteomics

David Morse, Sirius P.K. Tse, Chun Lap Samuel Lo

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Dinoflagellates are notorious for their ability to form the harmful algal blooms known as “red tides,” yet the mechanisms underlying bloom formation remain poorly understood. Despite recent advances in nucleic acid sequencing, which have generated transcriptomes from a wide range of species exposed to a variety of different conditions, measuring changes in RNA levels have not generally produced great insight into dinoflagellate cell biology or environmental physiology, nor do we have a thorough grasp on the molecular events underpinning bloom formation. Not only is the transcriptomic response of dinoflagellates to environmental change generally muted, but there is a markedly low degree of congruency between mRNA expression and protein expression in dinoflagellates. Herein we discuss the application of high-throughput proteomics to the study of dinoflagellate biology. By profiling the cellular protein complement (the proteome) instead of mRNA (the transcriptome), the biomolecular events that underlie the changes of phenotypes can be more readily evaluated, as proteins directly determine the structure and the function of the cell. Recent advances in proteomics have seen this technique become a high-throughput method that is now able to provide a perspective different from the more commonly employed nucleic acid sequencing. We suggest that the time is ripe to exploit these new technologies in addressing the many mysteries of dinoflagellate biology, such as how the symbiotic dinoflagellate inhabiting reef corals acclimate to increases in temperature, as well as how harmful algal blooms are initiated at the sub-cellular level. Furthermore, as dinoflagellates are not the only eukaryotes that demonstrate muted transcriptional responses, the techniques addressed within this review are amenable to a wide array of organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-26
Number of pages11
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Dinoflagellates
  • Gene expression
  • Mass spectrometry-based protein identification
  • Proteomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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