Dinoflagellates are important primary producers for marine ecosystems and are also responsible for certain essential components in human foods. However, they are also notorious for their ability to form harmful algal blooms, and cause shellfish poisoning. Although much work has been devoted to dinoflagellates in recent decades, our understanding of them at a molecular level is still limited owing to some of their challenging biological properties, such as large genome size, permanently condensed liquid-crystalline chromosomes, and the 10-fold lower ratio of protein to DNA than other eukaryotic species. In recent years, omics technologies, such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, have been applied to the study of marine dinoflagellates and have uncovered many new physiological and metabolic characteristics of dinoflagellates. In this article, we review recent application of omics technologies in revealing some of the unusual features of dinoflagellate genomes and molecular mechanisms relevant to their biology, including the mechanism of harmful algal bloom formations, toxin biosynthesis, symbiosis, lipid biosynthesis, as well as species identification and evolution. We also discuss the challenges and provide prospective further study directions and applications of dinoflagellates.
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