ISME J 16 (8) 2060-2064 [2022-08-00; online 2022-04-26]
Photosynthetic dinoflagellates in the family Symbiodiniaceae engage in symbiosis with scleractinian corals. As coral 'bleaching' is partly governed by the thermal sensitivity of different Symbiodiniaceae lineages, numerous studies have investigated their temperature sensitivity. However, the systematic identification of single-cells with increased temperature resistance among these dinoflagellates has remained inaccessible, mostly due to a lack of technologies operating at the microscale. Here, we employed a unique combination of microfluidics, miniaturized temperature control, and chlorophyll fluorometry to characterize the single-cell heterogeneity among five representative species within the Symbiodiniaceae family under temperature stress. We monitored single-cell maximum quantum yields (Fv/Fm) of photosystem (PS) II under increasing temperature stress (22‒39 °C, + 1 °C every 15 min), and detected a significant Fv/Fm reduction at lineage-specific temperatures ranging from 28 °C to 34 °C alongside a 40- to 180- fold increase in intraspecific heterogeneity under elevated temperatures (>31 °C). We discovered that the initial Fv/Fm of a cell could predict the same cell's ability to perform PSII photochemistry under moderate temperature stress (<32 °C), suggesting its use as a proxy for measuring the thermal sensitivity among Symbiodiniaceae. In combination, our study highlights the heterogeneous thermal sensitivity among photosynthetic Symbiodiniaceae and adds critical resolution to our understanding of temperature-induced coral bleaching.