Transcriptomic analysis of the response of Acropora millepora to hypo-osmotic stress provides insights into DMSP biosynthesis by corals

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Genomics, 2017, 18 (1)
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© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is a small sulphur compound which is produced in prodigious amounts in the oceans and plays a pivotal role in the marine sulfur cycle. Until recently, DMSP was believed to be synthesized exclusively by photosynthetic organisms; however we now know that corals and specific bacteria can also produce this compound. Corals are major sources of DMSP, but the molecular basis for its biosynthesis is unknown in these organisms. Results: Here we used salinity stress, which is known to trigger DMSP production in other organisms, in conjunction with transcriptomics to identify coral genes likely to be involved in DMSP biosynthesis. We focused specifically on both adults and juveniles of the coral Acropora millepora: after 24 h of exposure to hyposaline conditions, DMSP concentrations increased significantly by 2.6 fold in adult corals and 1.2 fold in juveniles. Concomitantly, candidate genes enabling each of the necessary steps leading to DMSP production were up-regulated. Conclusions: The data presented strongly suggest that corals use an algal-like pathway to generate DMSP from methionine, and are able to rapidly change expression of the corresponding genes in response to environmental stress. However, our data also indicate that DMSP is unlikely to function primarily as an osmolyte in corals, instead potentially serving as a scavenger of ROS and as a molecular sink for excess methionine produced as a consequence of proteolysis and osmolyte catabolism in corals under hypo-osmotic conditions.
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