New method for counting bacteria associated with coral mucus.
ABSTRACT: The ability to count bacteria associated with reef-building corals in a rapid, reliable, and cost-effective manner has been hindered by the viscous and highly autofluorescent nature of the coral mucus layer (CML) in which they live. We present a new method that disperses bacterial cells by trypsinization prior to 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) staining and quantification by epifluorescence microscopy. We sampled seawater and coral mucus from Porites lobata from 6 reef sites influenced by wastewater intrusion and 2 reef sites unaffected by wastewater in Hawaii. Bacterial and zooxanthella abundances and cell sizes were quantified for each sample. Bacteria were more abundant in coral mucus (ranging from 5.3 x 10(5) +/- 1.0 x 10(5) cells ml(-1) to 1.8 x 10(6) +/- 0.2 x 10(6) cells ml(-1)) than in the surrounding seawater (1.9 x 10(5) +/- 0.1 x 10(5) cells ml(-1) to 4.2 x 10(5) +/- 0.2 x 10(5) cells ml(-1)), and the mucus-associated cells were significantly smaller than their seawater counterparts at all sites (P < 0.0001). The difference in cell size between mucus- and seawater-associated bacteria decreased at wastewater-influenced sites, where simultaneously mucus bacteria were larger and seawater bacteria were smaller than those at uninfluenced sites. The abundance of zooxanthellae in mucus ranged from 1.1 x 10(5) +/- 0.1 x 10(5) cells ml(-1) to 3.4 x 10(5) +/- 0.3 x 10(5) cells ml(-1). The frequency of dividing cells (FDC) was higher in the surrounding seawater than in mucus, despite finding that a 1,000-fold-higher zooxanthella biovolume than bacterial biovolume existed in the CML. Establishment of a standardized protocol for enumeration will provide the field of coral microbial ecology with the urgently needed ability to compare observations across studies and regions.
Project description:Corals are associated with diverse microbial assemblages; however, the spatial-temporal dynamics of intra-species microbial interactions are poorly understood. The coral-associated microbial community varies substantially between tissue and mucus microhabitats; however, the factors controlling the occurrence, abundance, and distribution of microbial taxa over time have rarely been explored for different coral compartments simultaneously. Here, we test (1) differentiation in microbiome diversity and composition between coral compartments (surface mucus and tissue) of two Acropora hosts (A. tenuis and A. millepora) common along inshore reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as (2) the potential linkage between shifts in individual coral microbiome families and underlying host and environmental parameters. Amplicon based 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing of 136 samples collected over 14 months, revealed significant differences in bacterial richness, diversity and community structure among mucus, tissue and the surrounding seawater. Seawater samples were dominated by members of the Synechococcaceae and Pelagibacteraceae bacterial families. The mucus microbiome of Acropora spp. was dominated by members of Flavobacteriaceae, Synechococcaceae and Rhodobacteraceae and the tissue was dominated by Endozoicimonaceae. Mucus microbiome in both Acropora species was primarily correlated with seawater parameters including levels of chlorophyll a, ammonium, particulate organic carbon and the sum of nitrate and nitrite. In contrast, the correlation of the tissue microbiome to the measured environmental (i.e., seawater parameters) and host health physiological factors differed between host species, suggesting host-specific modulation of the tissue-associated microbiome to intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Furthermore, the correlation between individual coral microbiome members and environmental factors provides novel insights into coral microbiome-by-environment dynamics and hence has potential implications for current reef restoration and management efforts (e.g. microbial monitoring and observatory programs).
Project description:The complex symbiotic relationship between corals and their dinoflagellate partner Symbiodinium is believed to be sustained through close associations with mutualistic bacterial communities, though little is known about coral associations with bacterial groups able to fix nitrogen (diazotrophs). In this study, we investigated the diversity of diazotrophic bacterial communities associated with three common coral species (Acropora millepora, Acropora muricata, and Pocillopora damicormis) from three midshelf locations of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) by profiling the conserved subunit of the nifH gene, which encodes the dinitrogenase iron protein. Comparisons of diazotrophic community diversity among coral tissue and mucus microenvironments and the surrounding seawater revealed that corals harbor diverse nifH phylotypes that differ between tissue and mucus microhabitats. Coral mucus nifH sequences displayed high heterogeneity, and many bacterial groups overlapped with those found in seawater. Moreover, coral mucus diazotrophs were specific neither to coral species nor to reef location, reflecting the ephemeral nature of coral mucus. In contrast, the dominant diazotrophic bacteria in tissue samples differed among coral species, with differences remaining consistent at all three reefs, indicating that coral-diazotroph associations are species specific. Notably, dominant diazotrophs for all coral species were closely related to the bacterial group rhizobia, which represented 71% of the total sequences retrieved from tissue samples. The species specificity of coral-diazotroph associations further supports the coral holobiont model that bacterial groups associated with corals are conserved. Our results suggest that, as in terrestrial plants, rhizobia have developed a mutualistic relationship with corals and may contribute fixed nitrogen to Symbiodinium.
Project description:Comparative studies on the distribution of archaeal versus bacterial communities associated with the surface mucus layer of corals have rarely taken place. It has therefore remained enigmatic whether mucus-associated archaeal and bacterial communities exhibit a similar specificity towards coral hosts and whether they vary in the same fashion over spatial gradients and between reef locations. We used microbial community profiling (terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism, T-RFLP) and clone library sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to compare the diversity and community structure of dominant archaeal and bacterial communities associating with the mucus of three common reef-building coral species (Porites astreoides, Siderastrea siderea and Orbicella annularis) over different spatial scales on a Caribbean fringing reef. Sampling locations included three reef sites, three reef patches within each site and two depths. Reference sediment samples and ambient water were also taken for each of the 18 sampling locations resulting in a total of 239 samples. While only 41% of the bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) characterized by T-RFLP were shared between mucus and the ambient water or sediment, for archaeal OTUs this percentage was 2-fold higher (78%). About half of the mucus-associated OTUs (44% and 58% of bacterial and archaeal OTUs, respectively) were shared between the three coral species. Our multivariate statistical analysis (ANOSIM, PERMANOVA and CCA) showed that while the bacterial community composition was determined by habitat (mucus, sediment or seawater), host coral species, location and spatial distance, the archaeal community composition was solely determined by the habitat. This study highlights that mucus-associated archaeal and bacterial communities differ in their degree of community turnover over reefs and in their host-specificity.
Project description:Coral reefs are dynamic ecosystems known for decades to be endangered due, in large part, to anthropogenic impacts from land-based sources of pollution (LBSP). In this study, we utilized an Illumina-based next-generation sequencing approach to characterize prokaryotic and fungal communities from samples collected off the southeast coast of Florida. Water samples from coastal inlet discharges, oceanic outfalls of municipal wastewater treatment plants, treated wastewater effluent before discharge, open ocean samples, and coral tissue samples (mucus and polyps) were characterized to determine the relationships between microbial communities in these matrices and those in reef water and coral tissues. Significant differences in microbial communities were noted among all sample types but varied between sampling areas. Contamination from outfalls was found to be the greatest potential source of LBSP influencing native microbial community structure among all reef samples, although pollution from inlets was also noted. Notably, reef water and coral tissue communities were found to be more greatly impacted by LBSP at southern reefs, which also experienced the most degradation during the course of the study. The results of this study provide new insights into how microbial communities from LBSP can impact coral reefs in southeast Florida and suggest that wastewater outfalls may have a greater influence on the microbial diversity and structure of these reef communities than do contaminants carried in runoff, although the influences of runoff and coastal inlet discharge on coral reefs are still substantial.IMPORTANCE Coral reefs are known to be endangered due to sewage discharge and to runoff of nutrients, pesticides, and other substances associated with anthropogenic activity. Here, we used next-generation sequencing to characterize the microbial communities of potential contaminant sources in order to determine how environmental discharges of microbiota and their genetic material may influence the microbiomes of coral reef communities and coastal receiving waters. Runoff delivered through inlet discharges impacted coral microbial communities, but impacts from oceanic outfalls carrying treated wastewater were greater. Geographic differences in the degree of impact suggest that coral microbiomes may be influenced by the microbiological quality of treated wastewater.
Project description:Reef organisms influence microorganisms within the surrounding seawater, yet the spatial and temporal dynamics of seawater microbial communities located in proximity to corals are rarely investigated. To better understand reef seawater microbial community dynamics over time and space, we collected small-volume seawater samples during the day and night over a 72 hour period from three locations that differed in spatial distance from 5 Porites astreoides coral colonies on a shallow reef in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: near-coral (sampled 5 cm horizontally from each colony), reef-depth (sampled 2 m above each colony) and surface seawater (sampled 1 m from the seawater surface). At all time points and locations, we quantified abundances of microbial cells, sequenced small subunit rRNA genes of bacterial and archaeal communities, and measured inorganic nutrient concentrations. Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus cells were consistently elevated at night compared to day and these abundances changed over time, corresponding with temperature, nitrite, and silicate concentrations. During the day, bacterial and archaeal alpha diversity was significantly higher in reef-depth and near-coral seawater compared to the surface seawater, signifying that the reef influences the diversity of the seawater microorganisms. At night, alpha diversity decreased across all samples, suggesting that photosynthesis may favor a more taxonomically diverse community. While Prochlorococcus exhibited consistent temporal rhythmicity, additional taxa were enriched in reef seawater at night compared to day or in reef-depth compared to surface seawater based on their normalized sequence counts. There were some significant differences in nutrient concentrations and cell abundances between reef-depth and near-coral seawater but no clear trends. This study demonstrates that temporal variation supersedes small-scale spatial variation in proximity to corals in reef seawater microbial communities. As coral reefs continue to change in benthic composition worldwide, monitoring microbial composition in response to temporal changes and environmental fluctuations will help discern normal variability from longer lasting changes attributed to anthropogenic stressors and global climate change.
Project description:Actinobacteria is a ubiquitous major group in coral holobiont. The diversity and spatial and temporal distribution of actinobacteria have been rarely documented. In this study, diversity of actinobacteria associated with mucus, tissue and skeleton of Porites lutea and in the surrounding seawater were examined every 3 months for 1 year on Luhuitou fringing reef. The population structures of the P. lutea-associated actinobacteria were analyzed using phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene clone libraries, which demonstrated highly diverse actinobacteria profiles in P. lutea. A total of 25 described families and 10 unnamed families were determined in the populations, and 12 genera were firstly detected in corals. The Actinobacteria diversity was significantly different between the P. lutea and the surrounding seawater. Only 10 OTUs were shared by the seawater and coral samples. Redundancy and hierarchical cluster analyses were performed to analyze the correlation between the variations of actinobacteria population within the divergent compartments of P. lutea, seasonal changes, and environmental factors. The actinobacteria communities in the same coral compartment tended to cluster together. Even so, an extremely small fraction of OTUs was common in all three P. lutea compartments. Analysis of the relationship between actinobacteria assemblages and the environmental parameters showed that several genera were closely related to specific environmental factors. This study highlights that coral-associated actinobacteria populations are highly diverse, and spatially structured within P. lutea, and they are distinct from which in the ambient seawater.
Project description:Investigation of the response of coral microbial communities to seasonal ecological environment at the microscale will advance our understanding of the relationship between coral-associated bacteria community and coral health. In this study, we examined bacteria community composition from mucus, tissue and skeleton of Porites lutea and surrounding seawater every three months for 1 year on Luhuitou fringing reef. The bacterial communities were analyzed using pyrosequencing of the V1-V2 region of the 16S rRNA gene, which demonstrated diverse bacterial consortium profiles in corals. The bacterial communities in all three coral compartments studied were significantly different from the surrounding seawater. Moreover, they had a much more dynamic seasonal response compared to the seawater communities. The bacterial communities in all three coral compartments collected in each seasonal sample tended to cluster together. Analysis of the relationship between bacterial assemblages and the environmental parameters showed that the bacterial community correlated to dissolved oxygen and rainfall significantly at our study site. This study highlights a dynamic relationship between the high complexity of coral associated bacterial community and seasonally varying ecosystem parameters.
Project description:Serratia marcescens is the etiological agent of acroporid serratiosis, a distinct form of white pox disease in the threatened coral Acropora palmata. The pathogen is commonly found in untreated human waste in the Florida Keys, which may contaminate both nearshore and offshore waters. Currently there is no direct method for detection of this bacterium in the aquatic or reef environment, and culture-based techniques may underestimate its abundance in marine waters. A quantitative real-time PCR assay was developed to detect S. marcescens directly from environmental samples, including marine water, coral mucus, sponge tissue, and wastewater. The assay targeted the luxS gene and was able to distinguish S. marcescens from other Serratia species with a reliable quantitative limit of detection of 10 cell equivalents (CE) per reaction. The method could routinely discern the presence of S. marcescens for as few as 3 CE per reaction, but it could not be reliably quantified at this level. The assay detected environmental S. marcescens in complex sewage influent samples at up to 761 CE ml(-1) and in septic system-impacted residential canals in the Florida Keys at up to 4.1 CE ml(-1). This detection assay provided rapid quantitative abilities and good sensitivity and specificity, which should offer an important tool for monitoring this ubiquitous pathogen that can potentially impact both human health and coral health.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Cold-water coral reef ecosystems are recognized as biodiversity hotspots in the deep sea, but insights into their associated bacterial communities are still limited. Deciphering principle patterns of bacterial community variation over multiple spatial scales may however prove critical for a better understanding of factors contributing to cold-water coral reef stability and functioning. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Bacterial community structure, as determined by Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA), was investigated with respect to (i) microbial habitat type and (ii) coral species and color, as well as the three spatial components (iii) geomorphologic reef zoning, (iv) reef boundary, and (v) reef location. Communities revealed fundamental differences between coral-generated (branch surface, mucus) and ambient microbial habitats (seawater, sediments). This habitat specificity appeared pivotal for determining bacterial community shifts over all other study levels investigated. Coral-derived surfaces showed species-specific patterns, differing significantly between Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata, but not between L. pertusa color types. Within the reef center, no community distinction corresponded to geomorphologic reef zoning for both coral-generated and ambient microbial habitats. Beyond the reef center, however, bacterial communities varied considerably from local to regional scales, with marked shifts toward the reef periphery as well as between different in- and offshore reef sites, suggesting significant biogeographic imprinting but weak microbe-host specificity. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This study presents the first multi-scale survey of bacterial diversity in cold-water coral reefs, spanning a total of five observational levels including three spatial scales. It demonstrates that bacterial communities in cold-water coral reefs are structured by multiple factors acting at different spatial scales, which has fundamental implications for the monitoring of microbial diversity and function in those ecosystems.
Project description:The surface mucus layer of reef-building corals supports feeding, sediment clearing, and protection from pathogenic invaders. As much as half of the fixed carbon supplied by the corals' photosynthetic symbionts is incorporated into expelled mucus. It is therefore reasonable to expect that coral bleaching (disruption of the coral-algal symbiosis) would affect mucus production. Since coral mucus serves as an important nutrient source for the entire reef community, this could have substantial ecosystem-wide consequences. In this study, we examined the effects of heat stress-induced coral bleaching on the composition and antibacterial properties of coral mucus. In a controlled laboratory thermal challenge, stressed corals produced mucus with higher protein (<i>?</i> = 2.1, <i>p</i> < 0.001) and lipid content (<i>?</i> = 15.7, <i>p</i> = 0.02) and increased antibacterial activity (likelihood ratio = 100, <i>p</i> < 0.001) relative to clonal controls. These results are likely explained by the expelled symbionts in the mucus of bleached individuals. Our study suggests that coral bleaching could immediately impact the nutrient flux in the coral reef ecosystem via its effect on coral mucus.