Light-induced dissociation of antenna complexes in the symbionts of scleractinian corals correlates with sensitivity to coral bleaching

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Journal Article
Coral Reefs, 2012, 31 pp. 963 - 975
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Elevated temperatures in combination with moderate to high irradiance are known to cause bleaching events in scleractinian corals, characterised by damage to photosystem II (PSII). Photoprotective mechanisms of the symbiont can reduce the excitation pressure impinging upon PSII. In the bleaching sensitive species, Acropora millepora and Pocillopora damicornis, high light alone induced photoprotection through the xanthophyll cycle, increased content of the antioxidant carotenoid, ß-carotene, as well as the dissociation of the light-harvesting chlorophyll complexes. The evidence is compatible with either the membrane-bound chlorophyll a-chlorophyll c 2-peridinin-protein (acpPC) complex or the peripheral peridinin-chlorophyll-protein complex, or both, disconnecting from PSII under high light. The acpPC complex potentially showed a state transition response with redistribution towards photosystem I to reduce PSII over-excitation. This apparent acpPC dissociation/reassociation was promoted by the addition of the xanthophyll cycle inhibitor, dithiothreitol, under high irradiance. Exposure to thermal stress as well as high light promoted xanthophyll de-epoxidation and increased ß-carotene content, although it did not influence light-harvesting chlorophyll complex (LHC) dissociation, indicating light, rather than temperature, controls LHC dissociation. Photoinhibition was avoided in the bleaching tolerant species, Pavona decussata, suggesting xanthophyll cycling along with LHC dissociation may have been sufficient to prevent photodamage to PSII. Symbionts of P. decussata also displayed the greatest detachment of antenna complexes, while the more thermally sensitive species, Pocillopora damicornis and A. millepora, showed less LHC dissociation, suggesting antenna movement influences bleaching susceptibility.
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