Manuel Aranda Lastra, Ph.D.


Associate Professor of Marine Science

Research Interests

Prof. Aranda is a molecular biologist with strong background in functional genetics and coral reef genomics. His group studies the molecular underpinnings of the cnidarian-algal symbiosis and its environmental stress-related breakdown using functional genomics and genetics approaches. Furthermore, they are interested in how corals use the ability to modify their genomes through epigenetic mechanisms in order to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Selected Publications

  • Characterization of a sponge microbiome using an integrative genome-centric approach 
    J. Pamela Engelberts, Steven J. Robbins, Jasper M. de Goeij, Manuel Aranda, Sara C. Bell, ...
    ISME J, (2020)
  • DNA methylation regulates transcriptional homeostasis of algal endosymbiosis in the coral model Aiptasia 
    Y. Li, Yi Jin Liew, G. Cui, M.J. Cziesielski, N. Zahran, C.T. Michell, C.R. Voolstra and M...
    Science Advances, volume 4, no. 8, eaat2142, (2018)
  • Multi-omics analysis of thermal stress response in a zooxanthellate cnidarian reveals the importance of associating... 
    M.J. Cziesielski, Yi Jin Liew, G. Cui, S. Schmidt-Roach, S. Campana, C. Marondedze, M. Ara...
    Proceedings of the royal society B, Biological sciences, (2018)
  • Epigenome-associated phenotypic acclimatization to ocean acidification in a reef-building coral 
    Yi Jin Liew, D. Zoccola, Y. Li, E. Tambutté, A.A. Venn, C.T. Michell, G. Cui, E.S. Deuteko...
    Science Advances, volume 4, number 6, (2018)
  • Recent expansion of heat-activated retrotransposons in the coral symbiont Symbiodinium microadriaticum 
    J.E. Chen, G. Cui, X. Wang, Y.J. Liew and M. Aranda
    The ISME Journal, (2017)
  • Comparative analysis of the genomes of Stylophora pistillata and Acropora digitifera provides evidence for extensiv... 
    C.R. Voolstra, Y. Li, Y.J. Liew, S. Baumgarten, D. Zoccola, J.-F. Flot, S. Tambutté, D. Al...
    Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 17583, (2017)
  • Genome based analyses of six hexacorallian species reject the “naked coral” hypothesis 
    X. Wang, G. Drillon, T. Ryu, C.R. Voolstra, M. Aranda
    Genome Biology and Evolution, evx196, (2017)
  • Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals 
    G. Torda, J.M. Donelson, M. Aranda, D.J. Barshis, L. Bay, M.L. Berumen, D.G. Bourne, N. Ca...
    Nature Climate Change, 7, pp. 627-636, (2017)
  • Condition-specific RNA editing in the coral symbiont Symbiodinium microadriaticum 
    Liew YJ, Li Y, Baumgarten S, Voolstra CR, Aranda M.
    PLOS Genet. 13(2):e1006619, (2017)
  • Genomes of coral dinoflagellate symbionts highlight evolutionary adaptations conducive to a symbiotic lifestyle 
    M. Aranda, Y. Li, Y.J. Liew, S. Baumgarten, O. Simakov, M.C. Wilson, J. Piel, H. Ashoor, S...
    Sci Rep., 6:39734, (2016)


  • ​PhD, University of Cologne, Dept. of Evolutionary Genetics, D. Tautz, 2006          
  • Diploma, University of Cologne, Dept. of Genetics, P. Droege, 2001          
  • Biological Technical Assistant; Rheinische Akademie, Cologne, 1996        

Professional Profile

  • ​2012- current : Assistant Professor RSRC KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2009-2012: Postdoctoral fellow, RSRC KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia​

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • ​​Evo-Devo-Eco Network (EDEN)
  • International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS)
  • International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME)
  • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
  • Verband deutscher Biologen Vdbiol (Association of German biologists)
  •  European Society of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Euro Evo‐Devo)​

KAUST Affiliations

  • ​​Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  • Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division (BESE)

Research Interests Keywords

Genomics Symbiosis Epigenetics Molecular biology