Acidification-induced cellular changes in Symbiodinium isolated from Mussismilia braziliensis.
ABSTRACT: Dinoflagellates from the Symbiodiniaceae family and corals have an ecologically important endosymbiotic relationship. Scleractinian corals cannot survive for long periods without their symbionts. These algae, also known as zooxanthellae, on the other hand, thrives outside the coral cells. The free-living populations of zooxanthellae are essential for the resilience of the coral to environmental stressors such as temperature anomalies and ocean acidification. Yet, little is known about how ocean acidification may affect the free-living zooxanthellae. In this study we aimed to test morphological, physiological and biochemical responses of zooxanthellae from the Symbiodinium genus isolated from the coral Mussismilia braziliensis, endemic to the Brazilian coast, to acidification led by increased atmospheric CO2. We tested whether photosynthetic yield, cell ultrastructure, cell density and lipid profile would change after up to 16 days of exposure to pH 7.5 in an atmospheric pCO2 of 1633 ?atm. Photosynthetic yield and cell density were negatively affected and chloroplasts showed vesiculated thylakoids, indicating morphological damage. Moreover, Symbiodinium fatty acid profile drastically changed in acidified condition, showing lower polyunsaturated fatty acids and higher saturated fatty acids contents, when compared to the control, non-acidified condition. These results show that seawater acidification as an only stressor causes significant changes in the physiology, biochemistry and ultrastructure of free-living Symbiodinium.
Project description:We report the molecular cloning of a H(+)-ATPase in the symbiotic dinoflagellate, Symbiodinium sp. previously suggested by pharmacological studies to be involved in carbon-concentrating mechanism used by zooxanthellae when they are in symbiosis with corals. This gene encodes a protein of 975 amino acids with a calculated mass of about 105 kDa. The structure of the protein shows a typical P-type H(+)-ATPase structure (type IIIa plasma membrane H(+)-ATPases) and phylogenetic analyses show that this new proton pump groups with diatoms in the Chromoalveolates group. This Symbiodinium H(+)-ATPase is specifically expressed when zooxanthellae are engaged in a symbiotic relationship with the coral partner but not in free-living dinoflagellates. This proton pump, therefore, could be involved in the acidification of the perisymbiotic space leading to bicarbonate dehydration by carbonic anhydrase activity in order to supply inorganic carbon for photosynthesis as suggested by earlier studies. To our knowledge, this work provides the first example of a symbiosis-dependent gene in zooxanthellae and confirms the importance of H(+)-ATPase in coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis.
Project description:Coral reef ecosystems are based on coral-zooxanthellae symbiosis. During the initiation of symbiosis, majority of corals acquire their own zooxanthellae (specifically from the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium) from surrounding environments. The mechanisms underlying the initial establishment of symbiosis have attracted much interest, and numerous field and laboratory experiments have been conducted to elucidate this establishment. However, it is still unclear whether the host corals selectively or randomly acquire their symbionts from surrounding environments. To address this issue, we initially compared genetic compositions of Symbiodinium within naturally settled about 2-week-old Acropora coral juveniles (recruits) and those in the adjacent seawater as the potential symbiont source. We then performed infection tests using several types of Symbiodinium culture strains and apo-symbiotic (does not have Symbiodinium cells yet) Acropora coral larvae. Our field observations indicated apparent preference toward specific Symbiodinium genotypes (A1 and D1-4) within the recruits, despite a rich abundance of other Symbiodinium in the environmental population pool. Laboratory experiments were in accordance with this field observation: Symbiodinium strains of type A1 and D1-4 showed higher infection rates for Acropora larvae than other genotype strains, even when supplied at lower cell densities. Subsequent attraction tests revealed that three Symbiodinium strains were attracted toward Acropora larvae, and within them, only A1 and D1-4 strains were acquired by the larvae. Another three strains did not intrinsically approach to the larvae. These findings suggest the initial establishment of corals-Symbiodinium symbiosis is not random, and the infection mechanism appeared to comprise two steps: initial attraction step and subsequent selective uptake by the coral.
Project description:Algal symbionts (zooxanthellae, genus Symbiodinium) of scleractinian corals respond strongly to temperature, nutrient and light changes. These factors vary greatly along the north-south gradient in the Red Sea and include conditions, which are outside of those typically considered optimal for coral growth. Nevertheless, coral communities thrive throughout the Red Sea, suggesting that zooxanthellae have successfully acclimatized or adapted to the harsh conditions they experience particularly in the south (high temperatures and high nutrient supply). As such, the Red Sea is a region, which may help to better understand how zooxanthellae and their coral hosts successfully acclimatize or adapt to environmental change (e.g. increased temperatures and localized eutrophication). To gain further insight into the physiology of coral symbionts in the Red Sea, we examined the abundance of dominant Symbiodinium types associated with the coral Pocillopora verrucosa, and measured Symbiodinium physiological characteristics (i.e. photosynthetic processes, cell density, pigmentation, and protein composition) along the latitudinal gradient of the Red Sea in summer and winter. Despite the strong environmental gradients from north to south, our results demonstrate that Symbiodinium microadriaticum (type A1) was the predominant species in P. verrucosa along the latitudinal gradient. Furthermore, measured physiological characteristics were found to vary more with prevailing seasonal environmental conditions than with region-specific differences, although the measured environmental parameters displayed much higher spatial than temporal variability. We conclude that our findings might present the result of long-term acclimatization or adaptation of S. microadriaticum to regionally specific conditions within the Red Sea. Of additional note, high nutrients in the South correlated with high zooxanthellae density indicating a compensation for a temperature-driven loss of photosynthetic performance, which may prove promising for the resilience of these corals under increase of temperature increase and eutrophication.
Project description:Climate change-related coral bleaching, i.e., the visible loss of zooxanthellae from the coral host, is increasing in frequency and extent and presents a major threat to coral reefs globally. Coral bleaching has been proposed to involve accelerating light stress of their microalgal endosymbionts via a positive feedback loop of photodamage, symbiont expulsion and excess in vivo light exposure. To test this hypothesis, we used light and O2 microsensors to characterize in vivo light exposure and photosynthesis of Symbiodinium during a thermal stress experiment. We created tissue areas with different densities of Symbiodinium cells in order to understand the optical properties and light microenvironment of corals during bleaching. Our results showed that in bleached Pocillopora damicornis corals, Symbiodinium light exposure was up to fivefold enhanced relative to healthy corals, and the relationship between symbiont loss and light enhancement was well-described by a power-law function. Cell-specific rates of Symbiodinium gross photosynthesis and light respiration were enhanced in bleached P. damicornis compared to healthy corals, while areal rates of net photosynthesis decreased. Symbiodinium light exposure in Favites sp. revealed the presence of low light microniches in bleached coral tissues, suggesting that light scattering in thick coral tissues can enable photoprotection of cryptic symbionts. Our study provides evidence for the acceleration of in vivo light exposure during coral bleaching but this optical feedback mechanism differs between coral hosts. Enhanced photosynthesis in relation to accelerating light exposure shows that coral microscale optics exerts a key role on coral photophysiology and the subsequent degree of radiative stress during coral bleaching.
Project description:The symbiosis between reef-building corals and their algal endosymbionts (zooxanthellae of the genus Symbiodinium) is highly sensitive to temperature stress, which makes coral reefs vulnerable to climate change. Thermal tolerance in corals is known to be substantially linked to the type of zooxanthellae they harbour and, when multiple types are present, the relative abundance of types can be experimentally manipulated to increase the thermal limits of individual corals. Although the potential exists for this to translate into substantial thermal acclimatization of coral communities, to date there is no evidence to show that this takes place under natural conditions. In this study, we show field evidence of a dramatic change in the symbiont community of Acropora millepora, a common and widespread Indo-Pacific hard coral species, after a natural bleaching event in early 2006 in the Keppel Islands (Great Barrier Reef). Before bleaching, 93.5% (n=460) of the randomly sampled and tagged colonies predominantly harboured the thermally sensitive Symbiodinium type C2, while the remainder harboured a tolerant Symbiodinium type belonging to clade D or mixtures of C2 and D. After bleaching, 71% of the surviving tagged colonies that were initially C2 predominant changed to D or C1 predominance. Colonies that were originally C2 predominant suffered high mortality (37%) compared with D-predominant colonies (8%). We estimate that just over 18% of the original A. millepora population survived unchanged leaving 29% of the population C2 and 71% D or C1 predominant six months after the bleaching event. This change in the symbiont community structure, while it persists, is likely to have substantially increased the thermal tolerance of this coral population. Understanding the processes that underpin the temporal changes in symbiont communities is key to assessing the acclimatization potential of reef corals.
Project description:Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to negatively affect coral reefs, however little is known about how OA will change the coral-algal symbiosis on which reefs ultimately depend. This study investigated whether there would be differences in coral Symbiodinium types in response to OA, potentially improving coral performance. We used denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region of ribosomal DNA to investigate the dominant types of Symbiodinium associating with six species of scleractinian coral that were exposed to elevated partial pressures of carbon dioxide (pCO2) in situ from settlement and throughout their lives. The study was conducted at three naturally occurring volcanic CO2 seeps (pCO2 ?500 to 900 ppm, pHTotal 7.8 - 7.9) and adjacent control areas (pCO2 ?390 ppm, pHTotal ?8.0 - 8.05) in Papua New Guinea. The Symbiodinium associated with corals living in an extreme seep site (pCO2 >1000 ppm) were also examined. Ten clade C types and three clade D types dominated the 443 coral samples. Symbiodinium types strongly contrasted between coral species, however, no differences were observed due to CO2 exposure. Within five species, 85 - 95% of samples exhibited the same Symbiodinium type across all sites, with remaining rare types having no patterns attributable to CO2 exposure. The sixth species of coral displayed site specific differences in Symbiodinium types, unrelated to CO2 exposure. Symbiodinium types from the coral inhabiting the extreme CO2 seep site were found commonly throughout the moderate seeps and control areas. Our finding that symbiotic associations did not change in response to CO2 exposure suggest that, within the six coral hosts, none of the investigated 13 clade C and D Symbiodinium types had a selective advantage at high pCO2. Acclimatisation through changing symbiotic association therefore does not seem to be an option for Indo-Pacific corals to deal with future OA.
Project description:Coral reefs are in rapid decline on a global scale due to human activities and a changing climate. Shallow water reefs depend on the obligatory symbiosis between the habitat forming coral host and its algal symbiont from the genus Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae). This association is highly sensitive to thermal perturbations and temperatures as little as 1°C above the average summer maxima can cause the breakdown of this symbiosis, termed coral bleaching. Predicting the capacity of corals to survive the expected increase in seawater temperatures depends strongly on our understanding of the thermal tolerance of the symbiotic algae. Here we use molecular phylogenetic analysis of four genetic markers to describe Symbiodinium thermophilum, sp. nov. from the Persian/Arabian Gulf, a thermally tolerant coral symbiont. Phylogenetic inference using the non-coding region of the chloroplast psbA gene resolves S. thermophilum as a monophyletic lineage with large genetic distances from any other ITS2 C3 type found outside the Gulf. Through the characterisation of Symbiodinium associations of 6 species (5 genera) of Gulf corals, we demonstrate that S. thermophilum is the prevalent symbiont all year round in the world's hottest sea, the southern Persian/Arabian Gulf.
Project description:Reef-building corals thrive in nutrient-poor marine environments because of an obligate symbiosis with photosynthetic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium Symbiosis is established in most corals through the uptake of Symbiodinium from the environment. Corals are sessile for most of their life history, whereas free-living Symbiodinium are motile; hence, a mechanism to attract Symbiodinium would greatly increase the probability of encounter between host and symbiont. Here, we examined whether corals can attract free-living motile Symbiodinium by their green fluorescence, emitted by the excitation of endogenous GFP by purple-blue light. We found that Symbiodinium have positive and negative phototaxis toward weak green and strong purple-blue light, respectively. Under light conditions that cause corals to emit green fluorescence, (e.g., strong blue light), Symbiodinium were attracted toward live coral fragments. Symbiodinium were also attracted toward an artificial green fluorescence dye with similar excitation and emission spectra to coral-GFP. In the field, more Symbiodinium were found in traps painted with a green fluorescence dye than in controls. Our results revealed a biological signaling mechanism between the coral host and its potential symbionts.
Project description:Zooxanthellate corals live in symbiosis with phototrophic dinoflagellates of the family Symbiodiniaceae, enabling the host coral to dwell in shallow, nutrient-poor marine waters. The South Atlantic Ocean is characterized by low coral diversity with high levels of endemism. However, little is known about coral-dinoflagellate associations in the region. This study examined the diversity of Symbiodiniaceae associated with the scleractinian coral Favia gravida across its distributional range using the ITS-2 marker. This brooding coral endemic to the South Atlantic can be found across a wide range of latitudes and longitudes, including the Mid-Atlantic islands. Even though it occurs primarily in shallower environments, F. gravida is among the few coral species that live in habitats with extreme environmental conditions (high irradiance, temperature, and turbidity) such as very shallow tide pools. In the present study, we show that F. gravida exhibits some degree of flexibility in its symbiotic association with zooxanthellae across its range. F. gravida associates predominantly with Cladocopium C3 (ITS2 type Symbiodinium C3) but also with Symbiodinium A3, Symbiodinium linucheae (ITS2 type A4), Cladocopium C1, Cladocopium C130, and Fugacium F3. Symbiont diversity varied across biogeographic regions (Symbiodinium A3 and S. linucheae were found in the Tropical Eastern Atlantic, Cladocopium C1 in the Mid-Atlantic, and other subtypes in the Southwestern Atlantic) and was affected by local environmental conditions. In addition, Symbiodiniaceae diversity was highest in a southwestern Atlantic oceanic island (Rocas Atoll). Understanding the relationship between corals and their algal symbionts is critical in determining the factors that control the ecological niches of zooxanthellate corals and their symbionts, and identifying host-symbiont pairs that may be more resistant to environmental changes.
Project description:The depth distribution of reef-building corals exposes their photosynthetic symbionts of the genus Symbiodinium to extreme gradients in the intensity and spectral quality of the ambient light environment. Characterizing the mechanisms used by the coral holobiont to respond to the low intensity and reduced spectral composition of the light environment in deeper reefs (greater than 20 m) is fundamental to our understanding of the functioning and structure of reefs across depth gradients. Here, we demonstrate that host pigments, specifically photoconvertible red fluorescent proteins (pcRFPs), can promote coral adaptation/acclimatization to deeper-water light environments by transforming the prevalent blue light into orange-red light, which can penetrate deeper within zooxanthellae-containing tissues; this facilitates a more homogeneous distribution of photons across symbiont communities. The ecological importance of pcRFPs in deeper reefs is supported by the increasing proportion of red fluorescent corals with depth (measured down to 45 m) and increased survival of colour morphs with strong expression of pcRFPs in long-term light manipulation experiments. In addition to screening by host pigments from high light intensities in shallow water, the spectral transformation observed in deeper-water corals highlights the importance of GFP-like protein expression as an ecological mechanism to support the functioning of the coral-Symbiodinium association across steep environmental gradients.