High salinity conveys thermotolerance in the coral model Aiptasia.
ABSTRACT: The endosymbiosis between dinoflagellate algae of the genus Symbiodinium and stony corals provides the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. Coral bleaching, the expulsion of endosymbionts from the coral host tissue as a consequence of heat or light stress, poses a threat to reef ecosystem functioning on a global scale. Hence, a better understanding of the factors contributing to heat stress susceptibility and tolerance is needed. In this regard, some of the most thermotolerant corals live in particularly saline habitats, but possible effects of high salinity on thermotolerance in corals are anecdotal. Here we test the hypothesis that high salinity may lead to increased thermotolerance. We conducted a heat stress experiment at low, intermediate, and high salinities using a set of host-endosymbiont combinations of the coral model Aiptasia. As expected, all host-endosymbiont combinations showed reduced photosynthetic efficiency and endosymbiont loss during heat stress, but the severity of bleaching was significantly reduced with increasing salinities for one of the host-endosymbiont combinations. Our results show that higher salinities can convey increased thermotolerance in Aiptasia, although this effect seems to be dependent on the particular host strain and/or associated symbiont type. This finding may help explain the extraordinarily high thermotolerance of corals in high salinity environments, such as the Red Sea and the Persian/Arabian Gulf, and provides novel insight regarding factors that contribute to thermotolerance. Since our results are based on a salinity effect in symbiotic sea anemones, it remains to be determined whether this salinity effect can also be observed in stony corals.
Project description:Coral reefs are in global decline mainly due to increasing sea surface temperatures triggering coral bleaching. Recently, high salinity has been linked to increased thermotolerance and decreased bleaching in the sea anemone coral model Aiptasia. However, the underlying processes remain elusive. Using two Aiptasia host--endosymbiont pairings, we induced bleaching at different salinities and show reduced reactive oxygen species (ROS) release at high salinities, suggesting a role of osmoadaptation in increased thermotolerance. A subsequent screening of osmolytes revealed that this effect was only observed in algal endosymbionts that produce 2-O-glycerol-?-D-galactopyranoside (floridoside), an osmolyte capable of scavenging ROS. This result argues for a mechanistic link between osmoadaptation and thermotolerance, mediated by ROS-scavenging osmolytes (e.g., floridoside). This sheds new light on the putative mechanisms underlying the remarkable thermotolerance of corals from water bodies with high salinity such as the Red Sea or Persian/Arabian Gulf and holds implications for coral thermotolerance under climate change.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Project description:Current research posits that all multicellular organisms live in symbioses with associated microorganisms and form so-called metaorganisms or holobionts. Cnidarian metaorganisms are of specific interest given that stony corals provide the foundation of the globally threatened coral reef ecosystems. To gain first insight into viruses associated with the coral model system Aiptasia (sensu Exaiptasia pallida), we analyzed an existing RNA-Seq dataset of aposymbiotic, partially populated, and fully symbiotic Aiptasia CC7 anemones with Symbiodinium. Our approach included the selective removal of anemone host and algal endosymbiont sequences and subsequent microbial sequence annotation. Of a total of 297 million raw sequence reads, 8.6 million (?3%) remained after host and endosymbiont sequence removal. Of these, 3,293 sequences could be assigned as of viral origin. Taxonomic annotation of these sequences suggests that Aiptasia is associated with a diverse viral community, comprising 116 viral taxa covering 40 families. The viral assemblage was dominated by viruses from the families Herpesviridae (12.00%), Partitiviridae (9.93%), and Picornaviridae (9.87%). Despite an overall stable viral assemblage, we found that some viral taxa exhibited significant changes in their relative abundance when Aiptasia engaged in a symbiotic relationship with Symbiodinium. Elucidation of viral taxa consistently present across all conditions revealed a core virome of 15 viral taxa from 11 viral families, encompassing many viruses previously reported as members of coral viromes. Despite the non-random selection of viral genetic material due to the nature of the sequencing data analyzed, our study provides a first insight into the viral community associated with Aiptasia. Similarities of the Aiptasia viral community with those of corals corroborate the application of Aiptasia as a model system to study coral holobionts. Further, the change in abundance of certain viral taxa across different symbiotic states suggests a role of viruses in the algal endosymbiosis, but the functional significance of this remains to be determined.
Project description:The endosymbiosis between Symbiodinium dinoflagellates and stony corals provides the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. The survival of these ecosystems is under threat at a global scale, and better knowledge is needed to conceive strategies for mitigating future reef loss. Environmental disturbance imposing temperature, salinity, and nutrient stress can lead to the loss of the Symbiodinium partner, causing so-called coral bleaching. Some of the most thermotolerant coral-Symbiodinium associations occur in the Persian/Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea, which also represent the most saline coral habitats. We studied whether Symbiodinium alter their metabolite content in response to high-salinity environments. We found that Symbiodinium cells exposed to high salinity produced high levels of the osmolyte 2-O-glycerol-α-d-galactopyranoside (floridoside), both in vitro and in their coral host animals, thereby increasing their capacity and, putatively, the capacity of the holobiont to cope with the effects of osmotic stress in extreme environments. Given that floridoside has been previously shown to also act as an antioxidant, this osmolyte may serve a dual function: first, to serve as a compatible organic osmolyte accumulated by Symbiodinium in response to elevated salinities and, second, to counter reactive oxygen species produced as a consequence of potential salinity and heat stress.
Project description:Over half of all extant stony corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Scleractinia) harbour endosymbiotic dinoflagellates of the family Symbiodiniaceae, forming the foundational species of modern shallow reefs. However, whether these associations are conserved on the coral phylogeny remains unknown. Here we aim to characterise Symbiodiniaceae communities in eight closely-related species in the genera Merulina, Goniastrea and Scapophyllia, and determine if the variation in endosymbiont community structure can be explained by the phylogenetic relatedness among hosts. We perform DNA metabarcoding of the nuclear internal transcribed spacer 2 using Symbiodiniaceae-specific primers on 30 coral colonies to recover three major endosymbiont clades represented by 23 distinct types. In agreement with previous studies on Southeast Asian corals, we find an abundance of Cladocopium and Durusdinium, but also detect Symbiodinium types in three of the eight coral host species. Interestingly, differences in endosymbiont community structure are dominated by host variation at the intraspecific level, rather than interspecific, intergeneric or among-clade levels, indicating a lack of phylogenetic constraint in the coral-endosymbiont association among host species. Furthermore, the limited geographic sampling of four localities spanning the Western and Central Indo-Pacific preliminarily hints at large-scale spatial structuring of Symbiodiniaceae communities. More extensive collections of corals from various regions and environments will help us better understand the specificity of the coral-endosymbiont relationship.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Numerous studies have shown that bacteria form stable associations with host corals and have focused on identifying conserved "core microbiomes" of bacterial associates inferred to be serving key roles in the coral holobiont. Because studies tend to focus on only stony corals (order Scleractinia) or soft corals (order Alcyonacea), it is currently unknown if there are conserved bacteria that are shared by both. A meta-analysis was done of 16S rRNA amplicon data from multiple studies generated via identical methodology to allow direct comparisons of bacterial associates across seven deep-sea corals, including both stony and soft species: Anthothela grandiflora, Anthothela sp., Lateothela grandiflora, Lophelia pertusa, Paramuricea placomus, Primnoa pacifica, and Primnoa resedaeformis. RESULTS:Twenty-three operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were consistently present in greater than 50% of the coral samples. Seven amplicon sequence variants (ASVs), five of which corresponded to a conserved OTU, were consistently present in greater than 30% of the coral samples including five or greater coral species. A majority of the conserved sequences had close matches with previously identified coral-associated bacteria. While known to dominate tropical and temperate coral microbiomes, Endozoicomonas were extremely rare or absent from these deep-sea corals. An Endozoicomonas OTU associated with Lo. pertusa in this study was most similar to those from shallow-water stony corals, while an OTU associated with Anthothela spp. was most similar to those from shallow-water gorgonians. CONCLUSIONS:Bacterial sequences have been identified that are conserved at the level of class Anthozoa (i.e., found in both stony and soft corals, shallow and deep). These bacterial associates are therefore hypothesized to play important symbiotic roles and are highlighted for targeted future study. These conserved bacterial associates include taxa with the potential for nitrogen and sulfur cycling, detoxification, and hydrocarbon degradation. There is also some overlap with kit contaminants that need to be resolved. Rarely detected Endozoicomonas sequences are partitioned by whether the host is a stony coral or a soft coral, and the finer clustering pattern reflects the hosts' phylogeny.
Project description:Microbial associations with corals are common and are most likely symbiotic, although their diversity and relationships with environmental factors and host species remain unclear. In this study, we adopted a 16S rRNA gene tag-pyrosequencing technique to investigate the bacterial communities associated with three stony Scleractinea and two soft Octocorallia corals from three locations in the Red Sea. Our results revealed highly diverse bacterial communities in the Red Sea corals, with more than 600 ribotypes detected and up to 1,000 species estimated from a single coral species. Altogether, 21 bacterial phyla were recovered from the corals, of which Gammaproteobacteria was the most dominant group, and Chloroflexi, Chlamydiae, and the candidate phylum WS3 were reported in corals for the first time. The associated bacterial communities varied greatly with location, where environmental conditions differed significantly. Corals from disturbed areas appeared to share more similar bacterial communities, but larger variations in community structures were observed between different coral species from pristine waters. Ordination methods identified salinity and depth as the most influential parameters affecting the abundance of Vibrio, Pseudoalteromonas, Serratia, Stenotrophomonas, Pseudomonas, and Achromobacter in the corals. On the other hand, bacteria such as Chloracidobacterium and Endozoicomonas were more sensitive to the coral species, suggesting that the host species type may be influential in the associated bacterial community, as well. The combined influences of the coral host and environmental factors on the associated microbial communities are discussed. This study represents the first comparative study using tag-pyrosequencing technology to investigate the bacterial communities in Red Sea corals.
Project description:A delicate relationship exists between reef-building corals and their photosynthetic endosymbionts. Unfortunately, this relationship can be disrupted, with corals expelling these algae when temperatures rise even marginally above the average summer maximum. Interestingly, several studies indicate that failure of corals to regulate symbiont cell divisions at high temperatures may underlie this disruption; increased proliferation of symbionts may stress host cells by over-production of reactive oxygen species or by disrupting the flow of nutrients. This needs to be further investigated, so to begin deciphering the molecular mechanisms controlling the cell cycle in these organisms, we used a computational approach to identify putative cell cycle-regulating genes in the genome of the dinoflagellate Breviolum minutum This species is important as an endosymbiont of Aiptasia pallida-an anemone that is used as a model for studying coral biology. We then correlated expression of these putative cell cycle genes with cell cycle phase in diurnally growing B. minutum in culture. This approach allowed us to identify a cyclin/cyclin-dependent kinase pair that may function in the G1/S transition-a likely point for coral cells to exert control over algal cell divisions.
Project description:Reef-building corals form symbiotic relationships with dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium. Symbiodinium are genetically and physiologically diverse, and corals may be able to adapt to different environments by altering their dominant Symbiodinium phylotype. Notably, each coral species associates only with specific Symbiodinium phylotypes, and consequently the diversity of symbionts available to the host is limited by the species specificity. Currently, it is widely presumed that species specificity is determined by the combination of cell-surface molecules on the host and symbiont. Here we show experimental evidence supporting a new model to explain at least part of the specificity in coral-Symbiodinium symbiosis. Using the laboratory model Aiptasia-Symbiodinium system, we found that symbiont infectivity is related to cell size; larger Symbiodinium phylotypes are less likely to establish a symbiotic relationship with the host Aiptasia. This size dependency is further supported by experiments where symbionts were replaced by artificial fluorescent microspheres. Finally, experiments using two different coral species demonstrate that our size-dependent-infection model can be expanded to coral-Symbiodinium symbiosis, with the acceptability of large-sized Symbiodinium phylotypes differing between two coral species. Thus the selectivity of the host for symbiont cell size can affect the diversity of symbionts in corals.
Project description:Hard, or stony, corals make rocks that can, on geological time scales, lead to the formation of massive reefs in shallow tropical and subtropical seas. In both historical and contemporary oceans, reef-building corals retain information about the marine environment in their skeletons, which is an organic-inorganic composite material. The elemental and isotopic composition of their skeletons is frequently used to reconstruct the environmental history of Earth's oceans over time, including temperature, pH, and salinity. Interpretation of this information requires knowledge of how the organisms formed their skeletons. The basic mechanism of formation of calcium carbonate skeleton in stony corals has been studied for decades. While some researchers consider coral skeletons as mainly passive recorders of ocean conditions, it has become increasingly clear that biological processes play key roles in the biomineralization mechanism. Understanding the role of the animal in living stony coral biomineralization and how it evolved has profound implications for interpreting environmental signatures in fossil corals to understand past ocean conditions. Here we review historical hypotheses and discuss the present understanding of how corals evolved and how their skeletons changed over geological time. We specifically explain how biological processes, particularly those occurring at the subcellular level, critically control the formation of calcium carbonate structures. We examine the different models that address the current debate including the tissue-skeleton interface, skeletal organic matrix, and biomineralization pathways. Finally, we consider how understanding the biological control of coral biomineralization is critical to informing future models of coral vulnerability to inevitable global change, particularly increasing ocean acidification.
Project description:Symbiosis, defined as the persistent association between two distinct species, is an evolutionary and ecologically critical phenomenon facilitating survival of both partners in diverse habitats. The biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems depends on a functional symbiosis with photosynthetic dinoflagellates of the highly diverse genus Symbiodinium, which reside in coral host cells and continuously support their nutrition. The mechanisms underlying symbiont selection to establish a stable endosymbiosis in non-symbiotic juvenile corals are unclear. Here we show for the first time that symbiont selection patterns for larvae of two Acropora coral species and the model anemone Aiptasia are similar under controlled conditions. We find that Aiptasia larvae distinguish between compatible and incompatible symbionts during uptake into the gastric cavity and phagocytosis. Using RNA-Seq, we identify a set of candidate genes potentially involved in symbiosis establishment. Together, our data complement existing molecular resources to mechanistically dissect symbiont phagocytosis in cnidarians under controlled conditions, thereby strengthening the role of Aiptasia larvae as a powerful model for cnidarian endosymbiosis establishment.