Por Mauro Rebelo

The genomes of invasive coral Tubastraea spp as tool for biotechnological solutions

Corals have been attracting huge attention due to the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on reef formation and resilience. Nevertheless, some species like Tubastraea coccinea and T. tagusensis have been spreading very fast replacing the native ones which affect the local environment and decrease biodiversity of corals and other organisms associated with them. Despite some focal efforts to understand the biology of these organisms, they remain understudied at the molecular level. This knowledge gap hinders the development of cost-effective strategies for both conservation and management of invasive species. In this circumstance, it is expected that genome sequencing would provide powerful insights that could lead to better strategies for prevention, management, and control of this and other invasive species. Here, we present three genomes of Tubastraea spp. in one of the most comprehensive biological studies of corals, that includes flow cytometry, karyotyping, transcriptomics, genomics, and phylogeny. The genome of T. tagusensis is organized in 23 chromosome pairs and has 1.1 Gb, the T. coccinea genome is organized in 22 chromosome pairs and has 806 Mb, and the Tubastraea sp. genome is organized in 21 chromosome pairs and has 795 Mb. The hybrid assembly of T. tagusensis using short and long-reads has a N50 of 227,978 bp, 7,996 contigs and high completeness estimated as 91.6% of BUSCO complete genes, of T. coccinea has a N50 of 66,396 bp, 17,214 contigs and 88.1% of completeness, and of Tubastraea sp. has an N50 of 82,672 bp, 12,922 contigs and also 88.1% of completeness. We inferred that almost half of the genome consists of repetitive elements, mostly interspersed repeats. We provide evidence for exclusive Scleractinia and Tubastraeagenecontent related to adhesion and immunity. The Tubastraea spp. genomes are a fundamental study which promises to provide insights not only about the genetic basis for the extreme invasiveness of this particular coral genus, but to understand the adaptation flaws of some reef corals in the face of anthropic-induced environmental disturbances. We expect the data generated in this study will foster the development of efficient technologies for the management of coral species, whether invasive or threatened.

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