Enhanced photoprotection pathways in symbiotic dinoflagellates of shallow-water corals and other cnidarians
Photoinhibition, exacerbated by elevated temperatures, underlies coral bleaching, but sensitivity to photosynthetic loss differs among various phylotypes of Symbiodinium, their dinoflagellate symbionts. Symbiodinium is a common symbiont in many cnidarian species including corals, jellyfish, anemones, and giant clams. Here, we provide evidence that most members of clade A Symbiodinium, but not clades B-D or F, exhibit enhanced capabilities for alternative photosynthetic electron-transport pathways including cyclic electron transport (CET). Unlike other clades, clade A Symbiodinium also undergo pronounced light-induced dissociation of antenna complexes from photosystem II (PSII) reaction centers. We propose these attributes promote survival of most cnidarians with clade A symbionts at high light intensities and confer resistance to bleaching conditions that conspicuously impact deeper dwelling corals that harbor non-clade A Symbiodinium.