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Response of two species of Indo-Pacific corals, Porites cylindrica and Stylophora pistillata, to short-term thermal stress: The host does matter in determining the tolerance of corals to bleaching

Lookup NU author(s): Professor John BythellORCiD, Amita Jatkar


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The role of both host and dinoflagellate symbionts was investigated in the response of reef-building corals to thermal stress in the light. Replicate coral nubbins of Stylophora pistillata and Porites cylindrica from the GBR were exposed to either 28 degrees C (control) or 32 degrees C for 5 days before being returned to an ambient reef temperature (28 degrees C). S. pistillata was found to contain either Symbiodinium genotype C1 or C8a, while P cylindrica had type C15 based on ITS genotyping. Analysis of the quantum yield of photosystem (PS) II fluorescence of the symbionts in P. cylindrica showed that light-induced excitation pressure on the C15 Symbiodinium was significantly less, and the steady state quantum yield of PSII fluorescence at noon (Delta F/Fm') greater, than that measured in C1/C8a Symbiodinium sp. from S. pistillata. Immunoblots of the PS II D1 protein were significantly lower in Symbiodinium from S. pistillata compared to those in P. cylindrica after exposure to thermal stress. The biochemical markers, heat-stress protein (HSP) 70 and superoxide dismutase (SOD), were significantly greater in P. cylindrica before the experiments and both species of coral increased their biosynthesis of HSP 70 and SOD when exposed to thermal stress. Concentrations of MAAs, glycerol, and lipids were not significantly affected by thermal stress in these experiments, but DNA damage was greater in heat-stressed S. pistillata compared to R cylindrica. There was minimal coral mucus, which accounts for up to half of the total energy budget of a coral and provides the first layer of defense for invading microbes, produced by S. pistillata after heat stress compared to P. cylindrica. It is concluded that P. cylindrica contains a heat resistant C15 Symbiodinium and critical host proteins are present at higher concentrations than observed for S. pistillata, the combination of which provides greater protection from bleaching conditions of high temperature in the light. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fitt WK, Gates RD, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Bythell JC, Jatkar A, Grottoli AG, Gomez M, Fisher P, Lajuenesse TC, Pantos O, Iglesias-Prieto R, Franklin DJ, Rodrigues LJ, Torregiani JM, van Woesik R, Lesser MP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

Year: 2009

Volume: 373

Issue: 2

Pages: 102-110

ISSN (print): 0022-0981

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2009.03.011


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