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Coral microbiota is the key to surviving climate change, new research discovers

A research site in Puerto Morelos (Caribbean), Mexico, where researchers collected Siders torearadians. Credit: SERGIO GUENDULAIN-GARCÍA

Coral microbial flora, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, plays an important role in coral’s ability to withstand rising seawater temperatures, according to a new study led by Penn State University. The team also identified several genes in tissue-dwelling specific corals and symbiotic photosynthetic algae that may play a role in responding to heat stress. The findings can inform current reef conservation efforts, for example, by highlighting the potential benefits of modifying reefs with microorganisms that have been found to enhance the heat stress response of corals. ..


Monica Medina, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, said: “We have found that heat stress in some corals can protect the microbial flora from bleaching, and it is now possible to pinpoint corals. Specific gene In coral animals and their optical symbionts that may be involved in this thermal stress response. “

Viridiana Avila-Magaña, a former student at Pennsylvania State University and now a PhD graduate at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said: It was found that the entire holobiont, including coral animals, photosymbiotic organisms, and microbial flora, is involved in the stress response. “

In their study published today Nature Communications, Researchers focus on three types of coral, mountain coral (Orbicella faveolata), hump-like brain coral (Pseudodiploria clivosa), and shallow water coral (Siderastrea radians), which are known to have different sensitivities to heat stress. I guessed. The variety of corals collected near Puerto Morelos, Mexico, has a unique set of optical symbionts and microbial flora. The team’s goal is to investigate the various metabolic contributions of each holobiont member to the overall stress tolerance of corals. Gene expression Patterns associated with these metabolic activities.

Medina explained that metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. In the case of corals, she said, this process is largely driven by photosynthesis, which provides at least 90% of the energy required for coral animals. However, until now, the contribution of the microbial flora was not well understood.

“We know that the heat stress caused by climate change can disrupt coral metabolism and cause bleaching,” Medina said. “Therefore, it is important to understand the various contributions of holobiont members and how these metabolic activities change in response to heat stress.”

Coral microbiota is the key to surviving climate change, new research discovers

Orbicella faveolata, Puerto Morelos, Mexico (Caribbean).Credits: Pennsylvania State University Monica Medina

Researchers conducted controlled thermal stress experiments and maintained three coral species in tanks at 93 ° F (34 ° C) for 9 days. This is 11 degrees (6 ° C) higher than the average temperature you would normally experience. These corals. Scientists have not been exposed to coral holobionts (including coral animals, photosymbiontes, members of the microflora) and heat stress after a 9-day period with the aim of detecting changes in gene expression. The RNA sequence of the control group was determined. Affects the heat stress response of holobiont. Specifically, gene expression data was used to estimate the metabolic activity of each holobiont member.

The team then used a type of phylogenetic ANOVA technique called analysis of variance and evolutionary models to examine changes in gene expression associated with heat stress that occurred over time of evolution.

“In collaboration with co-author of this study, Professor Rori Rohlfs of San Francisco State University, we have developed a phylogenetic ANOVA-based method that can track genes that are already divergent between species in response to specific stimuli. — In our case, it’s heat stress, ”says Viridiana Avila-Magaña. “This approach becomes particularly relevant to coral reef research, given the recent debate about the adaptability of various coral holobions under the threat of climate change. With this approach in mind. , I understand why different corals have a unique physiological response to heat stress, and how evolutionary gene expression shaped their different sensitivities. “

Avila-Magaña, by understanding how corals have undergone high temperature episodes during evolution and how gene expression has evolved in response to these events, corals for current and future warming events. I explained that you can know the reaction of.

“Our goal in this study is whether there were strain-specific innovations in the thermal stress of coral and its algae photosymbiotic organisms, and whether all members, including bacterial communities, contributed differently to the robustness of the holobiont. It was to decide whether or not, “she said.

Gene expression data revealed that the three coral holobions actually differed in response and metabolic capacity under high temperature stress. The team also found that each member of the holobiont had a unique response that affected the overall ability of the holobiont to cope with heat stress.

Coral microbiota is the key to surviving climate change, new research discovers

Siderastrea radians, Puerto Morelos, Mexico (Caribbean).Credits: Pennsylvania State University Monica Medina

“We found more genes associated with the heat stress response of coral holobions than in previous studies, and we also show that changes in the expression of these genes occurred during evolution,” Medina said. I am.

Interestingly, scientists have found that the greater heat resistance observed in some coral holobions, such as starlet corals, may be due in part to the number and diversity of heat-resistant microorganisms in the microbial flora. We conclude that it is sexual and provides redundancy in the major metabolic pathways. Protects against heat stress.

“We found that some corals have a stable and diverse microbiome, which translates into a huge number of metabolic capacities that have shown to remain active during heat challenges.” Said Avila-Magaña. “In contrast, we found that less thermostable species reduced bacterial activity and diversity.”

Medina said the results underscore the importance of a wide-ranging comparative approach to better understand the diverse responses of corals to rising sea surface temperatures.

Medina and Avila-Magaña said: Climate change, And the methods developed in our research represent excellent tools for scientists seeking to understand population and species adaptability. “

Other authors of this treatise include Susana Enríquez, a professor of Universidad Nacional Autóno made México. Bishoy Kamel, an assistant professor of biology at the University of New Mexico, and Michael De Salvo’s Joint Genome Institute at the University of California, Merced. Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, Professor of Biology, Pennsylvania State University. Kelly Gómez-Campo, Graduate School of Biology, Pennsylvania State University. Hiroaki Kitano, Professor, Institute of Systems Biology. Rori Rohlfs, an assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University.


Corals get over the heat with the help of bacteria


Quote: Coral microflora is the key to survival in climate change, and new research shows that on September 30, 2021 https://phys.org/news/2021-09-coral-microbiome-key-surviving- Obtained from climate.html.

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Coral microbiota is the key to surviving climate change, new research discovers

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