Metabolomic profiles differ among unique genotypes of a threatened Caribbean coral

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2019, 9 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2019, The Author(s). Global threats to reefs require urgent efforts to resolve coral attributes that affect survival in a changing environment. Genetically different individuals of the same coral species are known to exhibit different responses to the same environmental conditions. New information on coral physiology, particularly as it relates to genotype, could aid in unraveling mechanisms that facilitate coral survival in the face of stressors. Metabolomic profiling detects a large subset of metabolites in an organism, and, when linked to metabolic pathways, can provide a snapshot of an organism’s physiological state. Identifying metabolites associated with desirable, genotype-specific traits could improve coral selection for restoration and other interventions. A key step toward this goal is determining whether intraspecific variation in coral metabolite profiles can be detected for species of interest, however little information exists to illustrate such differences. To address this gap, we applied untargeted 1 H-NMR and LC-MS metabolomic profiling to three genotypes of the threatened coral Acropora cervicornis. Both methods revealed distinct metabolite “fingerprints” for each genotype examined. A number of metabolites driving separation among genotypes were identified or putatively annotated. Pathway analysis suggested differences in protein synthesis among genotypes. For the first time, these data illustrate intraspecific variation in metabolomic profiles for corals in a common garden. Our results contribute to the growing body of work on coral metabolomics and suggest future work could identify specific links between phenotype and metabolite profile in corals.
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