Coral bleaching from a single cell perspective

Publication Type:
Journal Article
ISME Journal, 2018, 12 (6), pp. 1558 - 1567
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Author(s). Ocean warming is resulting in increased occurrence of mass coral bleaching; a response in which the intracellular algal endosymbionts (Symbiodinium sp.) are expelled from the coral host due to physiological stress. This detrimental process is often attributed to overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that leak out of the endosymbionts and causes damage to the host cell, though direct evidence validating this link is limited. Here, for the first time, we used confocal microscopy and fluorescent dyes to investigate if endosymbiont ROS production significantly and predictably affects physiological parameters in its host cell. Heat treatment resulted in a 60% reduction in coral symbiont density, a ~70% increase in median endosymbiont ROS and a small reduction in photosystem efficiency (F V/F M, 11%), indicating absence of severe light stress. Notably, no other physiological parameters were affected in either endosymbionts or host cells, including reduced glutathione and ROS-induced lipid peroxidation. Taken together, the increase in endosymbiont ROS could not be linked to physiological damage in either partner, suggesting that oxidative stress is unlikely to have been the driver for symbiont expulsion in this study.
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