Skip to main content

The assessment of DNA from marine organisms via a modified salting-out protocol


We developed a rapid, practical and non-toxic salting-out method for the extraction of DNA from marine organisms, and tested it on two representative species of Porifera and Cnidaria, both living in association with symbiotic zooxanthellae. We tested the efficiency of the protocol by comparing the output of the method for fresh tissue, frozen tissue and tissue stored in ethanol. It proved to be effective for extracting DNA in the case of the methods of preservation considered here, and for obtaining quantities of DNA comparable to those obtained via the traditional approach. The DNA from both species was of good quality. The DNA obtained was amplified by PCR using specific primers for the large ribosomal subunit, allowing the identification of the presence of both the host and symbiont genomes.


  1. 1.

    Glynn, P.W. Coral reef bleaching in the 1980s and possible connections with global warming. Trends Ecol. Evol. 6 (1991) 175–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Hayes, M.L., Bonaventura, J., Mitchell, T.P., Prosper, J.M., Shinn, E.A., Van Dolah, F. and Barber, R.T. How are climate and marine biological outbreaks functionally linked? Hydrobiologia 460 (2001) 213–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Muller-Parker, G. and D’Elia, C.F. Interactions between corals and their symbiotic algae. In: Life and Death of Coral Reefs (Birkeland, C. Ed.) Chapman & Hall, New York., 1997, 96–113.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Wakefield, T.S., Farmer, M.A. and Kempf, S.C. Revised description of the fine structure of in situ “zooxanthellae” genus Symbiodinium. Biol. Bull. 199 (2000) 76–84.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Goulet, T.L. and Coffroth, M.A. Stability of an octocoral-algal symbiosis over time and space. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 250 (2003) 117–124.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Rowan, R., Knowlton, N., Baker, A.C. and Jara, J. Landscape ecology of algal symbiont communities explains variation in episodes of coral bleaching. Nature 388 (1997) 265–269.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Cowen, R. The role of algal Symbiosis in reefs through time. Palaios 3 (1998) 221–227.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Hoegh-Guldberg, O. Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Mar. Freshw. Res. 50 (1999) 839–866.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Muscatine, L. and Porter, J.W. Reef corals — mutualistic symbioses adapted to nutrient-poor environments. BioScience 27 (1997) 454–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Junghans, H. and Metzlaff, M. A simple and rapid method for preparation of total plant DNA. Biotechnique 8 (1990) 176.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Coffroth, M.A., Lasker, H.R., Diamond, M.E., Bruenn, J.A. and Bermingham, E. DNA fingerprints of a gorgonian coral: a method for detecting clonal structure in a vegetative species. Mar. Biol. 114 (1992) 317–325.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Sinha, R.P, Dautz, M. and Hader, D.P. A simple and Efficient Method for the Quantitative Analysis of Thymine Cyanobacteria, Phytoplancton and Macroalgae. Acta Protozool. 40 (2001) 187–195.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Chen, C.A. and Yu, J.K. Universal primers for amplification of mithochondrial small subunit ribosomal RNA-encoding gene in scleractinian corals. Mar. Biotechnol. 2 (2000) 146–153.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    LaJeunesse, T.C. Investigating the biodiversity, ecology and phylogeny of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium using ITS region. In: Search of a “specie” level marker. J. Phycol. 37 (2001) 866–880.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Santos, S.R., Gutierrez-Riodriguez, C., Lasker, H.R. and Coffroth, M.A. Symbiodinium sp. Association in the gorgonian Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae in the Bahamas: high level of genetic variability and population structure in symbiotic dinoflagellates. Mar. Biol. 143 (2003) 111–120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Crabbe, M.J. A novel method for the transport and analysis of genetic material from polyps and zooxanthellae of scleractinians corals. J. Biochem. Biophys. Methods 57 (2003) 171–176.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Miller, S.A., Dykes, D.D. and Polesky, H.F. A simple salting out procedure for extracting DNA from human nucleated cells. Nucleic Acid Res. 16 (1988), 1215.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Rawlings, L.H. and Donellan, S.C. Phylogeographic analysis of the green phyton, Morelia viridis, reveals criptic diversity. Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 27 (2003) 36–44.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Underwood, A.J. Techniques of analysis of variance in experimental marine biology and ecology. Annu. Rev. Ocean. Mar. Biol. 19 (1981) 513–605.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carlo Cerrano.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ferrara, G.B., Murgia, B., Parodi, A.M. et al. The assessment of DNA from marine organisms via a modified salting-out protocol. Cell. Mol. Biol. Lett. 11, 155–160 (2006).

Download citation

Key words

  • Symbiodinium
  • Porifera
  • Cnidaria
  • DNA
  • PCR