Host coenzyme Q redox state is an early biomarker of thermal stress in the coral Acropora millepora

Publication Type:
Journal Article
PLoS ONE, 2015, 10 (10)
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© 2015 Lutz et al.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Bleaching episodes caused by increasing seawater temperatures may induce mass coral mortality and are regarded as one of the biggest threats to coral reef ecosystems worldwide. The current consensus is that this phenomenon results from enhanced production of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) that disrupt the symbiosis between corals and their endosymbiotic dinoflagellates, Symbiodinium. Here, the responses of two important antioxidant defence components, the host coenzyme Q (CoQ) and symbiont plastoquinone (PQ) pools, are investigated for the first time in colonies of the scleractinian coral, Acropora millepora, during experimentally-induced bleaching under ecologically relevant conditions. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) was used to quantify the states of these two pools, together with physiological parameters assessing the general state of the symbiosis (including photosystem II photochemical efficiency, chlorophyll concentration and Symbiodinium cell densities). The results show that the responses of the two antioxidant systems occur on different timescales: (i) the redox state of the Symbiodinium PQ pool remained stable until twelve days into the experiment, after which there was an abrupt oxidative shift; (ii) by contrast, an oxidative shift of approximately 10% had occurred in the host CoQ pool after 6 days of thermal stress, prior to significant changes in any other physiological parameter measured. Host CoQ pool oxidation is thus an early biomarker of thermal stress in corals, and this antioxidant pool is likely to play a key role in quenching thermally-induced ROS in the coral-algal symbiosis. This study adds to a growing body of work that indicates host cellular responses may precede the bleaching process and symbiont dysfunction.
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