Calcification process dynamics in coral primary polyps as observed using a calcein incubation method.
ABSTRACT: Calcification processes are largely unknown in scleractinian corals. In this study, live confocal imaging was used to elucidate the spatiotemporal dynamics of the calcification process in aposymbiotic primary polyps of the coral species Acropora digitifera. The fluorophore calcein was used as a calcium deposition marker and a visible indicator of extracellular fluid distribution at the tissue-skeleton interface (subcalicoblastic medium, SCM) in primary polyp tissues. Under continuous incubation in calcein-containing seawater, initial crystallization and skeletal growth were visualized among the calicoblastic cells in live primary polyp tissues. Additionally, the distribution of calcein-stained SCM and contraction movements of the pockets of SCM were captured at intervals of a few minutes. Our experimental system provided several new insights into coral calcification, particularly as a first step in monitoring the relationship between cellular dynamics and calcification in vivo. Our study suggests that coral calcification initiates at intercellular spaces, a finding that may contribute to the general understanding of coral calcification processes.
Project description:Corals build their skeletons using extracellular calcifying fluid located in the tissue-skeleton interface. However, the mechanism by which corals control the transport of calcium and other ions from seawater and the mechanism of constant alkalization of calcifying fluid are largely unknown. To address these questions, we performed direct pH imaging at calcification sites (subcalicoblastic medium, SCM) to visualize active pH upregulation in live aposymbiotic primary coral polyps treated with HCl-acidified seawater. Active alkalization was observed in all individuals using vital staining method while the movement of HPTS and Alexa Fluor to SCM suggests that certain ions such as H+ could diffuse via a paracellular pathway to SCM. Among them, we discovered acid-induced oscillations in the pH of SCM (pHSCM), observed in 24% of polyps examined. In addition, we discovered acid-induced pH up-regulation waves in 21% of polyps examined, which propagated among SCMs after exposure to acidified seawater. Our results showed that corals can regulate pHSCM more dynamically than was previously believed. These observations will have important implications for determining how corals regulate pHSCM during calcification. We propose that corals can sense ambient seawater pH via their innate pH-sensitive systems and regulate pHSCM using several unknown pH-regulating ion transporters that coordinate with multicellular signaling occurring in coral tissue.
Project description:Large benthic foraminifera are unicellular calcifying reef organisms that can form symbiotic relationships with a range of different microalgae. However, the cellular functions, such as symbiosis and calcification, and other aspects of cellular physiology in large benthic foraminifera are not fully understood. Amphisorus kudakajimensis was used as a model to determine the detailed cellular characteristics of large benthic foraminifera. We used calcein acetoxymethyl ester (calcein AM) as a fluorescent indicator for live confocal imaging. We demonstrated that calcein AM is a useful fluorescent indicator to stain the fine network of reticulopodia and the cytoplasm in living A. kudakajimensis. We showed that at least two types of reticulopodia exist in A. kudakajimensis: the straight bundle of reticulopodia that spreads from the aperture and the fine reticulopodia along the surface of the aperture and chamber walls. The cytoplasm in outer chambers was highly branched and contained a few dinoflagellates. In contrast, the inner chamberlets contained condensed cytoplasm and many dinoflagellates, suggesting that the cytoplasm of A. kudakajimensis performs different functions based on its location within the large test. Our confocal detailed image analysis provides real-time cellular morphology and cell physiology of living foraminifera.
Project description:Insight into the response of reef corals and other major marine calcifiers to ocean acidification is limited by a lack of knowledge about how seawater pH and carbonate chemistry impact the physiological processes that drive biomineralization. Ocean acidification is proposed to reduce calcification rates in corals by causing declines in internal pH at the calcifying tissue-skeleton interface where biomineralization takes place. Here, we performed an in vivo study on how partial-pressure CO(2)-driven seawater acidification impacts intracellular pH in coral calcifying cells and extracellular pH in the fluid at the tissue-skeleton interface [subcalicoblastic medium (SCM)] in the coral Stylophora pistillata. We also measured calcification in corals grown under the same conditions of seawater acidification by measuring lateral growth of colonies and growth of aragonite crystals under the calcifying tissue. Our findings confirm that seawater acidification decreases pH of the SCM, but this decrease is gradual relative to the surrounding seawater, leading to an increasing pH gradient between the SCM and seawater. Reductions in calcification rate, both at the level of crystals and whole colonies, were only observed in our lowest pH treatment when pH was significantly depressed in the calcifying cells in addition to the SCM. Overall, our findings suggest that reef corals may mitigate the effects of seawater acidification by regulating pH in the SCM, but they also highlight the role of calcifying cell pH homeostasis in determining the response of reef corals to changes in external seawater pH and carbonate chemistry.
Project description:In scleractinian reef-building corals, patterns of cell self-renewal, migration and death remain virtually unknown, limiting our understanding of cellular mechanisms underlying initiation of calcification, and ontogenesis of the endosymbiotic dinoflagellate relationship. In this study, we pulse-labelled the coral Stylophora pistillata for 24 h with BrdU at four life stages (planula, early metamorphosis, primary polyp and adult colony) to investigate coral and endosymbiont cell proliferation during development, while simultaneously recording TUNEL-positive (i.e. apoptotic) nuclei. In the primary polyp, the fate of BrdU-labelled cells was tracked during a 3-day chase. The pharynx and gastrodermis were identified as the most proliferative tissues in the developing polyp, and BrdU-labelled cells accumulated in the surface pseudostratified epithelium and the skeletogenic calicodermis during the chase, revealing cell migration to these epithelia. Surprisingly, the lowest cell turnover was recorded in the calicodermis at all stages, despite active, ongoing skeletal deposition. In dinoflagellate symbionts, DNA synthesis was systematically higher than coral host gastrodermis, especially in planula and early metamorphosis. The symbiont to host cell ratio remained constant, however, indicating successive post-mitotic control mechanisms by the host of its dinoflagellate density in early life stages, increasingly shifting to apoptosis in the growing primary polyp.
Project description:Corals rely on a symbiosis with dinoflagellate algae (Symbiodinium spp.) to thrive in nutrient poor tropical oceans. However, the coral-algal symbiosis can break down during bleaching events, potentially leading to coral death. While genome-wide expression studies have shown the genes associated with the breakdown of this partnership, the full conglomerate of genes responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a healthy symbiosis remains unknown. Results from previous studies suggested little transcriptomic change associated with the establishment of symbiosis. In order to elucidate the transcriptomic response of the coral host in the presence of its associated symbiont, we utilized a comparative framework. Post-metamorphic aposymbiotic coral polyps of Orbicella faveolata were compared to symbiotic coral polyps 9 days after metamorphosis and the subsequent differential gene expression between control and treatment was quantified using cDNA microarray technology. Coral polyps exhibited differential expression of genes associated with nutrient metabolism and development, providing insight into pathways turned as a result of symbiosis driving early polyp growth. Furthermore, genes associated with lysosomal fusion were also upregulated, suggesting host regulation of symbiont densities soon after infection. Overall design: RNA from 3 control and 3 infected polyp samples were hybridized in a 3-replicate pooled reference (6 total hyb's)
Project description:BACKGROUND:Contemporary coral reef research has firmly established that a genomic approach is urgently needed to better understand the effects of anthropogenic environmental stress and global climate change on coral holobiont interactions. Here we present KEGG orthology-based annotation of the complete genome sequence of the scleractinian coral Acropora digitifera and provide the first comprehensive view of the genome of a reef-building coral by applying advanced bioinformatics. DESCRIPTION:Sequences from the KEGG database of protein function were used to construct hidden Markov models. These models were used to search the predicted proteome of A. digitifera to establish complete genomic annotation. The annotated dataset is published in ZoophyteBase, an open access format with different options for searching the data. A particularly useful feature is the ability to use a Google-like search engine that links query words to protein attributes. We present features of the annotation that underpin the molecular structure of key processes of coral physiology that include (1) regulatory proteins of symbiosis, (2) planula and early developmental proteins, (3) neural messengers, receptors and sensory proteins, (4) calcification and Ca2+-signalling proteins, (5) plant-derived proteins, (6) proteins of nitrogen metabolism, (7) DNA repair proteins, (8) stress response proteins, (9) antioxidant and redox-protective proteins, (10) proteins of cellular apoptosis, (11) microbial symbioses and pathogenicity proteins, (12) proteins of viral pathogenicity, (13) toxins and venom, (14) proteins of the chemical defensome and (15) coral epigenetics. CONCLUSIONS:We advocate that providing annotation in an open-access searchable database available to the public domain will give an unprecedented foundation to interrogate the fundamental molecular structure and interactions of coral symbiosis and allow critical questions to be addressed at the genomic level based on combined aspects of evolutionary, developmental, metabolic, and environmental perspectives.
Project description:Numerous enzymes that digest carbohydrates, such as cellulases and chitinases, are present in various organisms (e.g., termites, nematodes, and so on). Recently, the presence of cellulases and chitinases has been reported in marine organisms such as urchin and bivalves, and their several roles in marine ecosystems have been proposed. In this study, we reported the presence of genes predicted to encode proteins similar to cellulases and chitinases in the genome of the coral Acropora digitifera, their gene expression patterns at various life stages, and cellulose- and chitin-degrading enzyme activities in several coral species (A. digitifera, Galaxea fascicularis, Goniastrea aspera, Montipora digitata, Pavona divaricata, Pocillopora damicornis, and Porites australiensis). Our gene expression analysis demonstrated the expressions of these cellulase- and chitinase-like genes during various life stages, including unfertilized eggs, fertilized eggs, zygotes, planula larvae, primary polyps and adults of A. digitifera. Agar plate assays confirmed cellulase and chitinase activities in the tissues extracted from adult branches of several coral species. These results suggested that corals are able to utilize cellulases and chitinases in their life histories.
Project description:Certain stony corals can alternate between a calcifying colonial form and noncalcifying solitary polyps, supporting the hypothesis that corals have survived through geologic timescale periods of unfavorable calcification conditions. However, the mechanisms enabling this biological plasticity are yet to be identified. Here we show that incubation of two coral species (Pocillopora damicornis and Oculina patagonica) under reduced pH conditions (pH 7.2) simulating past ocean acidification induce tissue-specific apoptosis that leads to the dissociation of polyps from coenosarcs. This in turn leads to the breakdown of the coenosarc and, as a consequence, to loss of coloniality. Our data show that apoptosis is initiated in the polyps and that once dissociation between polyp and coenosarc terminates, apoptosis subsides. After reexposure of the resulting solitary polyps to normal pH (pH 8.2), both coral species regenerated coenosarc tissues and resumed calcification. These results indicate that regulation of coloniality is under the control of the polyp, the basic modular unit of the colony. A mechanistic explanation for several key evolutionarily important phenomena that occurred throughout coral evolution is proposed, including mechanisms that permitted species to survive the third tier of mass extinctions.
Project description:Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are well known and broadly used as bio-imaging markers in molecular biology research. Many FP genes were cloned from anthozoan species and it was suggested that multi-copies of these genes are present in their genomes. However, the full complement of FP genes in any single coral species remained unidentified. In this study, we analyzed the FP genes in two stony coral species. FP cDNA sequences from Acropora digitifera and Acropora tenuis revealed the presence of a multi-gene family with an unexpectedly large number of genes, separated into short-/middle-wavelength emission (S/MWE), middle-/long-wavelength emission (M/LWE), and chromoprotein (CP) clades. FP gene copy numbers in the genomes of four A. digitifera colonies were estimated as 16-22 in the S/MWE, 3-6 in the M/LWE, and 8-12 in the CP clades, and, in total, 35, 31, 33, and 33 FP gene copies per individual shown by quantitative PCR. To the best of our knowledge, these are the largest sets of FP genes per genome. The fluorescent light produced by recombinant protein products encoded by the newly isolated genes explained the fluorescent range of live A. digitifera, suggesting that the high copy multi-FP gene family generates coral fluorescence. The functionally diverse multi-FP gene family must have existed in the ancestor of Acropora species, as suggested by molecular phylogenetic and evolutionary analyses. The persistence of a diverse function and high copy number multi-FP gene family may indicate the biological importance of diverse fluorescence emission and light absorption in Acropora species.
Project description:The coral is a holobiont formed by the close interaction between the coral animal and a diverse community of microorganisms, including dinoflagellates, bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses. The prokaryotic symbionts of corals are important for host fitness but are also highly sensitive to changes in the environment. In this study, we used 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequencing to examine the response of the microbial community associated with the coral, Acropora digitifera, to elevated temperature. The A. digitifera microbial community is dominated by operational taxonomic unit (OTUs) affiliated with classes Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria. The prokaryotic community in the coral tissue is distinct from that of the mucus and the surrounding seawater. Remarkably, the overall microbial community structure of A. digitifera remained stable for 10 days of continuous exptosure at 32°C compared to corals maintained at 27°C. However, the elevated temperature regime resulted in a decrease in the abundance of OTUs affiliated with certain groups of bacteria, such as order Rhodobacterales. On the other hand, some OTUs affiliated with the orders Alteromonadales, Vibrionales, and Flavobacteriales, which are often associated with diseased and stressed corals, increased in abundance. Thus, while the A. digitifera bacterial community structure appears resilient to higher temperature, prolonged exposure and intensified stress results in changes in the abundance of specific microbial community members that may affect the overall metabolic state and health of the coral holobiont.