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Symbiotic dinoflagellates
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Teh, L. S. X., Poo, J. S. T., Boo, M. V., Chew, S. F., & Ip, Y. K. (2021). Using glutamine synthetase 1 to evaluate the symbionts' potential of ammonia assimilation and their responses to illumination in five organs of the giant clam, Tridacna squamosa. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 255, Article 110914.
Nitrogen-deficient symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae) living inside the fluted giant clam, Tridacna squamosa, need to obtain nitrogen from the host. Glutamine synthetase 1 (GS1) is a cytosolic enzyme that assimilates ammonia into glutamine. We determined the transcript levels of zooxanthellal GS1 (Zoox-GS1), which represented comprehensively GS1 transcripts of Symbiodinium, Cladocopium and Durusdinium, in five organs of T. squamosa. The outer mantle had significantly higher transcript level of Zoox-GS1 than the inner mantle, foot muscle, hepatopancreas and ctenidium, but the transcript ratios of Zoox-GS1 to zooxanthellal form II ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Zoox-rbcII), which represented the potential of ammonia assimilation relative to the phototrophic potential, were comparable among these five organs. Based on transcript ratios of Zoox-GS1 to zooxanthellal Urease (Zoox-URE), the outer mantle had the highest potential of urea degradation relative to ammonia assimilation among the five organs, probably because urea degradation could furnish CO2 and NH3 for photosynthesis and amino acid synthesis, respectively, in the symbionts therein. The protein abundance of Zoox-GS1 was upregulated in the outer mantle and the inner mantle during illumination. Zoox-GS1 could catalyze light-enhanced glutamine formation using ammonia absorbed from the host or ammonia released through urea degradation in the cytoplasm. The glutamine produced could be used to synthesize other nitrogenous compounds, including amino acids in the cytoplasm or in the plastid of the dinoflagellates. Some of the amino acids synthesized by the symbionts in the inner mantle and foot muscle could be donated to the host to support shell organic matrix formation and muscle production, respectively.
This is the final draft, after peer-review, of a manuscript published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology. The published version is available online at
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Project number: 
RI 3/19 CSF
Grant ID: 
Grant no.: (R-154-000-A37-114)
Grant no.: (R-154-000-B69-114)
NIE Academic Research Fund (Grant no.: NIE AcRF RI3/19CSF)
Funding Agency: 
Ministry of Education, Singapore
National Institute of Education, Singapore
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