Comparative analysis of the expanding genomic resources for scleractinian corals may provide insights into the evolution of these organisms, with implications for their continued persistence under global climate change. Here, we sequenced and annotated the genome of Pocillopora damicornis, one of the most abundant and widespread corals in the world. We compared this genome, based on protein-coding gene orthology, with other publicly available coral genomes (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Scleractinia), as well as genomes from other anthozoan groups (Actiniaria, Corallimorpharia), and two basal metazoan outgroup phlya (Porifera, Ctenophora). We found that 46.6% of P. damicornis genes had orthologs in all other scleractinians, defining a coral ‘core’ genome enriched in basic housekeeping functions. Of these core genes, 3.7% were unique to scleractinians and were enriched in immune functionality, suggesting an important role of the immune system in coral evolution. Genes occurring only in P. damicornis were enriched in cellular signaling and stress response pathways, and we found similar immune-related gene family expansions in each coral species, indicating that immune system diversification may be a prominent feature of scleractinian coral evolution at multiple taxonomic levels. Diversification of the immune gene repertoire may underlie scleractinian adaptations to symbiosis, pathogen interactions, and environmental stress.
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