Dinoflagellates are essential components in marine ecosystems, and they possess two dissimilar flagella to facilitate movement. Dinoflagellates are major components of marine food webs and of extreme importance in balancing the ecosystem energy flux in oceans. They have been reported to be the primary cause of harmful algae bloom (HABs) events around the world, causing seafood poisoning and therefore having a direct impact on human health. Interestingly, dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium
are major components of coral reef foundations. Knowledge regarding their genes and genome organization is currently limited due to their large genome size and other genetic and cytological characteristics that hinder whole genome sequencing of dinoflagellates. Transcriptomic approaches and genetic analyses have been employed to unravel the physiological and metabolic characteristics of dinoflagellates and their complexity. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge and findings from transcriptomic studies to understand the cell growth, effects on environmental stress, toxin biosynthesis, dynamic of HABs, phylogeny and endosymbiosis of dinoflagellates. With the advancement of high throughput sequencing technologies and lower cost of sequencing, transcriptomic approaches will likely deepen our understanding in other aspects of dinoflagellates’ molecular biology such as gene functional analysis, systems biology and development of model organisms.
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