Manuel Aranda

  Assistant Professor, Marine Science ​

  Office Location: Ibn Al Haytham (Building 2) · Level 2 · Room 2216
  Email: manuel.aranda@kaust.edu.sa


Research Keywords
Symbiosis, Corals, Anemones, Dinoflagellates, Functional Genetics, Genomics, Epigenetics


Research Interests
Prof. Aranda’s main research interest lies in understanding the molecular underpinnings of the cnidarian-algal symbiosis. This symbiosis also serves as a model system to address more general questions regarding the molecular mechanisms and factors determining the nature of symbiotic relationships i.e. mutualistic, commensalistic or parasitic. His approach combines genomics techniques and functional genetic tools to identify candidate genes and to determine their specific function in the initiation, maintenance and breakdown of the symbiotic relationship. 

Furthermore, his group is studying how cnidarians and their symbionts modify their genomes through epigenetic mechanisms in order to adapt their physiology to the environment. Here their focus lies in studying to what extent these systems allow reef-building corals to adapt to environmental changes such as those predicted by future climate change scenarios.


Main Techniques
RNAi, Morpholinos, ISH, RNA-seq, WGBS, transcriptome and Genome assembly

Members of the Lab

Dr Yong Li: Postdoctoral fellow working on the de novo genome assembly and annotation of our coral model species Stylophora pistillata and its associated dinoflagellate symbiont Symbiodinium microadriaticum. He is further working on studying the contribution of DNA methylation to the adaptation of corals in future ocean acidification scenarios. Dr. Yong Li obtained his PhD from Northeast Agricultural University (China).

Dr. Yi Jin Liew: Postdoctoral fellow working on studying the role of DNA methylation in the adaptation of the dinoflagellate symbiont Symbiodinium microadriaticum to temperature increase and nutrient limitations. Dr. Yi Jin Liew obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK).

Dr. Jit Ern Chen: Postdoctoral fellow working on establishing the CRISPR/Cas9 system in Symbiodinium sp. His aim is to study the function of genes and pathways involved in triacylglycerol synthesis and the process of nutrient exchange between host and symbiont. Dr. Jit Ern Chen obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK).

Noura Zahran: First year PhD student focusing on developing RNAi and Morpholino based gene-knockdown techniques in our model system Aiptasia pallida. Her aim is to study the function of candidate genes involved in the establishment, maintenance and breakdown of symbiosis. Noura obtained her Ms. and Mhs. degrees in Molecular & Cell Biology and Medical Laboratory Sciences from Quinnipiac University (USA).

Guoxin Cui: First year PhD student focusing on developing the CRISPR/Cas9 system in Symbiodinium sp., the algal symbiont of many marine invertebrates. His aim is to study the function of genes involved in the process of host cell invasion. Guoxin obtained his Ms. in Biological sciences from Northeast Forestry University (China).


Selected Publications
M. Aranda, M. K. DeSalvo, T. Bayer, M. Medina and C. R. Voolstra (2012). “Evolutionary insights into scleractinian corals using comparative genomic hybridizations”. BMC Genomics 13:501 doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-501

T. Bayer*/ M. Aranda*, S. Sunagawa, L.K. Yum, M.K. DeSalvo, E. Lindquist, M. A. Coffroth, C.R. Voolstra, M.Medina (2012). “Symbiodinium Transcriptomes: Genome Insights into the Dinoflagellate Symbionts of Reef-building Corals”. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35269. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035269

M. Aranda, A.T. Banaszak, T. Bayer, J. R. Luyten, M. Medina, C.R. Voolstra (2011). "Differential sensitivity of coral larvae to natural levels of ultraviolet radiation during the onset of competence". Molecular Ecology 20(14): 2955-2972

Tribolium Genome Sequencing Consortium (2008). “The genome of the model beetle and pest Tribolium castaneum“. Nature 452(7190): 949-955.

H. Marquez-Souza*/ M. Aranda*, D. Tautz (2008). “A conserved role for hunchback in the trunk organization of insects“. Development 135(5): 881-8.

J. Savard, H. Marquez‐Souza, M. Aranda, D. Tautz (2006). “A Segmentation Gene in Tribolium Produces a Polycistronic mRNA that Codes for Multiple Conserved Peptides”. Cell 126(3): 559-69.