Temperature-Driven Local Acclimatization of Symbiodnium Hosted by the Coral Galaxea fascicularis at Hainan Island, China.
ABSTRACT: The success of coral reef ecosystems largely depends on mutualistic symbiosis between scleractinian corals and the dinoflagellate photosymbiont Symbiodinium spp. However, further investigation is needed to elucidate the flexibility of coral-algae associations in response to environmental changes. In this study, we applied a molecular method (high-throughput internal transcribed spacer 2 region of ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing) to explore diversity and flexibility of Symbiodinium associated with Galaxea fascicularis, an ecologically important scleractinian coral species collected at five locations around Hainan Island, South China Sea. The results revealed a high diversity of Symbiodinium subclades with C2r and D17 being dominant in G. fascicularis. Clade D Symbiodinium occurred most frequently in habitats where the annual average sea surface temperatures are the highest, suggesting that temperature is an important factor in determining Symbiodinium D abundance in G. fascicularis. The distribution of coral-Symbiodinium associations are possibly mediated by trade-off mechanisms which change the relative abundance of Symbiodinium clades/subclades under different environmental conditions. These findings provide further evidence that reef-building corals such as G. fascicularis can shuffle their symbionts to cope with environmental changes, and have implications for our understanding of the ecology of flexible coral-algal symbiosis.
Project description:With the increase in sea surface temperature (SST), scleractinian corals are exposed to bleaching threats but may possess certain flexibilities in terms of their associations with symbiotic algae. Previous studies have shown a close symbiosis between coral the and Symbiodinium; however, the spatial variation of the symbiosis and the attribution underlying are not well understood. In the present study, we examined coral-algal symbiosis in Galaxea fascicularis and Montipora spp. from three biogeographic regions across ~10° of latitude in the South China Sea. Analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) indicated a highly flexible coral-algal symbiosis in both G. fascicularis and Montipora spp. and canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) showed that temperature explained 83.2% and 60.1% of the explanatory subclade variations in G. fascicularis and Montipora spp., respectively, which suggested that temperature was the main environmental factor contributing to the diversity of Symbiodinium across the three regions. The geographic specificity of the Symbiodinium phylogeny was identified, revealing possible environmental selection across the three regions. These results suggest that scleractinian corals may have the ability to regulate Symbiodinium community structures under different temperatures and thus be able to adapt to gradual climate change.
Project description:The coral symbiont Symbiodinium plays important roles in the adaptation of coral to environmental changes. However, coral-Symbiodinium symbiotic associations are not well-understood in the South China Sea (SCS) whilst considering environmental factors and host taxa. In this study, next-generation sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS2) marker gene was used to explore the symbiotic associations between Symbiodinium and five typical coral species across tropical and subtropical reef regions of the SCS. The results showed that Acropora sp., Galaxea fascicularis, Platygyra lamellina, and Sarcophyton glaucum exhibited distinct Symbiodinium compositions between tropical and subtropical reef regions, whereas Porites lutea had stable Symbiodinium compositions. More heterogeneous Symbiodinium compositions among different coral species were observed in the tropical region, but there were no statistically significant differences in Symbiodinium compositions among different coral species in subtropical reef regions. There was a correlation between the Symbiodinium compositions and environmental factors, except for the composition of P. lutea. Symbiodinium subclades D1, D2, C71, C71a, C21, C3b, and C161 were primarily explained by the seawater temperature, nitrate, ammonia, and phosphate. Several host-specific Symbiodinium subclades (e.g., C15, C15.6, and C91) were observed in P. lutea as well. The findings of this study demonstrate the relationship of Symbiodinium diversity with coral hosts and the environment are helpful for elucidating the adaptation of corals to global climate change and anthropogenic disturbance.
Project description:In the South China Sea, coastal eutrophication in the Beibu Gulf has seriously threatened reef habitats by subjecting corals to chronic physiological stress. To determine how coral holobionts may tolerate such conditions, we examined the transcriptomes of healthy colonies of the galaxy coral Galaxea fascicularis and its endosymbiont Symbiodinium from two reef sites experiencing pristine or eutrophied nutrient regimes. We identified 236 and 205 genes that were differentially expressed in eutrophied hosts and symbionts, respectively. Both gene sets included pathways related to stress responses and metabolic interactions. An analysis of genes originating from each partner revealed striking metabolic integration with respect to vitamins, cofactors, amino acids, fatty acids, and secondary metabolite biosynthesis. The expression levels of these genes supported the existence of a continuum of mutualism in this coral-algal symbiosis. Additionally, large sets of transcription factors, cell signal transduction molecules, biomineralization components, and galaxin-related proteins were expanded in G. fascicularis relative to other coral species.
Project description:Some reef-building corals have been shown to respond to environmental change by shifting the composition of their algal symbiont (genus Symbiodinium) communities. These shifts have been proposed as a potential mechanism by which corals might survive climate stressors, such as increased temperatures. Conventional molecular methods suggest this adaptive capacity may not be widespread because few (?25%) coral species have been found to associate with multiple Symbiodinium clades. However, these methods can fail to detect low abundance symbionts (typically less than 10-20% of the total algal symbiont community). To determine whether additional Symbiodinium clades are present, but are not detected using conventional techniques, we applied a high-resolution, real-time PCR assay to survey Symbiodinium (in clades A-D) from 39 species of phylogenetically and geographically diverse scleractinian corals. This survey included 26 coral species thought to be restricted to hosting a single Symbiodinium clade ('symbiotic specialists'). We detected at least two Symbiodinium clades (C and D) in at least one sample of all 39 coral species tested; all four Symbiodinium clades were detected in over half (54%) of the 26 symbiotic specialist coral species. Furthermore, on average, 68 per cent of all sampled colonies within a given coral species hosted two or more symbiont clades. We conclude that the ability to associate with multiple symbiont clades is common in scleractinian (stony) corals, and that, in coral-algal symbiosis, 'specificity' and 'flexibility' are relative terms: specificity is rarely absolute. The potential for reef corals to adapt or acclimatize to environmental change via symbiont community shifts may therefore be more phylogenetically widespread than has previously been assumed.
Project description:Reef-building corals form complex relationships with a range of microorganisms including bacteria, archaea, fungi and the unicellular microalgae of the genus Symbiodinium, which together form the coral holobiont. These symbionts are known to have both beneficial and deleterious effects on their coral host, but little is known about what the governing factors of these relationships are, or the interactions that exist between the different members of the holobiont and their environment. Here we used 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing to investigate how archaeal and bacterial communities associated with the widespread scleractinian coral Seriatopora hystrix are influenced by extrinsic (reef habitat and geographic location) and intrinsic (host genotype and Symbiodinium subclade) factors. Bacteria dominate the microbiome of S. hystrix, with members of the Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteriodetes being the most predominant in all samples. The richness and evenness of these communities varied between reef habitats, but there was no significant difference between distinct coral host lineages or corals hosting distinct Symbiodinium subclades. The coral microbiomes correlated to reef habitat (depth) and geographic location, with a negative correlation between Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria, driven by the key members of both groups (Rhodobacteraceae and Hahellaceae, respectively), which showed significant differences between location and depth. This study suggests that the control of microbial communities associated with the scleractinian coral S. hystrix is driven primarily by external environmental conditions rather than by those directly associated with the coral holobiont.
Project description:The residence of dinoflagellate algae (genus: Symbiodinium) within scleractinian corals is critical to the construction and persistence of tropical reefs. In recent decades, however, acute and chronic environmental stressors have frequently destabilized this symbiosis, ultimately leading to coral mortality and reef decline. Viral infection has been suggested as a trigger of coral-Symbiodinium dissociation; knowledge of the diversity and hosts of coral-associated viruses is critical to evaluating this hypothesis. Here, we present the first genomic evidence of viruses associated with Symbiodinium, based on the presence of transcribed +ss (single-stranded) RNA and ds (double-stranded) DNA virus-like genes in complementary DNA viromes of the coral Montastraea cavernosa and expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries generated from Symbiodinium cultures. The M. cavernosa viromes contained divergent viral sequences similar to the major capsid protein of the dinoflagellate-infecting +ssRNA Heterocapsa circularisquama virus, suggesting a highly novel dinornavirus could infect Symbiodinium. Further, similarities to dsDNA viruses dominated (?69%) eukaryotic viral similarities in the M. cavernosa viromes. Transcripts highly similar to eukaryotic algae-infecting phycodnaviruses were identified in the viromes, and homologs to these sequences were found in two independently generated Symbiodinium EST libraries. Phylogenetic reconstructions substantiate that these transcripts are undescribed and distinct members of the nucleocytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDVs) group. Based on a preponderance of evidence, we infer that the novel NCLDVs and RNA virus described here are associated with the algal endosymbionts of corals. If such viruses disrupt Symbiodinium, they are likely to impact the flexibility and/or stability of coral-algal symbioses, and thus long-term reef health and resilience.
Project description:Coral endosymbionts in the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium are known to impact host physiology and have led to the evolution of reef-building, but less is known about how symbiotic communities in early life-history stages and their interactions with host parental identity shape the structure of coral communities on reefs. Differentiating the roles of environmental and biological factors driving variation in population demographic processes, particularly larval settlement, early juvenile survival and the onset of symbiosis is key to understanding how coral communities are structured and to predicting how they are likely to respond to climate change. We show that maternal effects (that here include genetic and/or effects related to the maternal environment) can explain nearly 24% of variation in larval settlement success and 5-17% of variation in juvenile survival in an experimental study of the reef-building scleractinian coral, Acropora tenuis. After 25 days on the reef, Symbiodinium communities associated with juvenile corals differed significantly between high mortality and low mortality families based on estimates of taxonomic richness, composition and relative abundance of taxa. Our results highlight that maternal and familial effects significantly explain variation in juvenile survival and symbiont communities in a broadcast-spawning coral, with Symbiodinium type A3 possibly a critical symbiotic partner during this early life stage.
Project description:Endosymbiotic dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium are fundamentally important to the biology of scleractinian corals, as well as to a variety of other marine organisms. The genus Symbiodinium is genetically and functionally diverse and the taxonomic nature of the union between Symbiodinium and corals is implicated as a key trait determining the environmental tolerance of the symbiosis. Surprisingly, the question of how Symbiodinium diversity partitions within a species across spatial scales of meters to kilometers has received little attention, but is important to understanding the intrinsic biological scope of a given coral population and adaptations to the local environment. Here we address this gap by describing the Symbiodinium ITS2 sequence assemblages recovered from colonies of the reef building coral Montipora capitata sampled across K?ne'ohe Bay, Hawai'i. A total of 52 corals were sampled in a nested design of Coral Colony(Site(Region)) reflecting spatial scales of meters to kilometers. A diversity of Symbiodinium ITS2 sequences was recovered with the majority of variance partitioning at the level of the Coral Colony. To confirm this result, the Symbiodinium ITS2 sequence diversity in six M. capitata colonies were analyzed in much greater depth with 35 to 55 clones per colony. The ITS2 sequences and quantitative composition recovered from these colonies varied significantly, indicating that each coral hosted a different assemblage of Symbiodinium. The diversity of Symbiodinium ITS2 sequence assemblages retrieved from individual colonies of M. capitata here highlights the problems inherent in interpreting multi-copy and intra-genomically variable molecular markers, and serves as a context for discussing the utility and biological relevance of assigning species names based on Symbiodinium ITS2 genotyping.
Project description:The persistence of coral reef ecosystems relies on the symbiotic relationship between scleractinian corals and intracellular, photosynthetic dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium. Genetic evidence indicates that these symbionts are biologically diverse and exhibit discrete patterns of environmental and host distribution. This makes the assessment of Symbiodinium diversity critical to understanding the symbiosis ecology of corals. Here, we applied pyrosequencing to the elucidation of Symbiodinium diversity via analysis of the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region, a multicopy genetic marker commonly used to analyse Symbiodinium diversity. Replicated data generated from isoclonal Symbiodinium cultures showed that all genomes contained numerous, yet mostly rare, ITS2 sequence variants. Pyrosequencing data were consistent with more traditional denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) approaches to the screening of ITS2 PCR amplifications, where the most common sequences appeared as the most intense bands. Further, we developed an operational taxonomic unit (OTU)-based pipeline for Symbiodinium ITS2 diversity typing to provisionally resolve ecologically discrete entities from intragenomic variation. A genetic distance cut-off of 0.03 collapsed intragenomic ITS2 variants of isoclonal cultures into single OTUs. When applied to the analysis of field-collected coral samples, our analyses confirm that much of the commonly observed Symbiodinium ITS2 diversity can be attributed to intragenomic variation. We conclude that by analysing Symbiodinium populations in an OTU-based framework, we can improve objectivity, comparability and simplicity when assessing ITS2 diversity in field-based studies.
Project description:Discovering how corals can adjust their thermal sensitivity in the context of global climate change is important in understanding the long-term persistence of coral reefs. In this study, we showed that short-term preconditioning to higher temperatures, 3°C below the experimentally determined bleaching threshold, for a period of 10 days provides thermal tolerance for the symbiosis stability between the scleractinian coral, Acropora millepora and Symbiodinium. Based on genotypic analysis, our results indicate that the acclimatization of this coral species to thermal stress does not come down to simple changes in Symbiodinium and/or the bacterial communities that associate with reef-building corals. This suggests that the physiological plasticity of the host and/or symbiotic components appears to play an important role in responding to ocean warming. The further study of host and symbiont physiology, both of Symbiodinium and prokaryotes, is of paramount importance in the context of global climate change, as mechanisms for rapid holobiont acclimatization will become increasingly important to the long-standing persistence of coral reefs.