Temperature and Light Effects on Extracellular Superoxide Production by Algal and Bacterial Symbionts in Corals: Implications for Coral Bleaching

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Caterina Brighi1, Julia M Diaz2, Amy Apprill2 and Colleen M Hansel2, (1)Imperial College London, Department of Chemistry, London, United Kingdom, (2)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry, Woods Hole, MA, United States
Increased surface seawater temperature due to global warming is one of the main causes of coral bleaching, a phenomenon in which corals lose their photosynthetic algae. Light and temperature induced production of superoxide and other reactive oxygen species (ROS) by these symbiotic algae has been implicated in the breakdown of their symbiotic association with the coral host and subsequent coral bleaching. Nevertheless, a direct link between Symbiodinium ROS production and coral bleaching has not been demonstrated. In fact, given the abundance and diversity of microorganisms within the coral holobiont, the concentration and fluxes of ROS within corals may involve several microbial sources and sinks. Here, we explore the role of increased light and temperature on superoxide production by coral-derived cultures of Symbiodinium algae and Oceanospirillales bacteria of the genus Endozoicomonas, which are globally common and abundant associates of corals. Using a high sensitivity chemiluminescent technique, we find that heat stress (exposure to 34°C vs. 23°C for 2hr or 24hr) has no significant effect on extracellular superoxide production by Symbiodinium isolates within clades B and C, regardless of the level of light exposure. Exposure to high light, however, increased superoxide production by these organisms at both 34°C and 23°C. On the other hand, extracellular superoxide production by Endozoicomonas bacteria tested under the same conditions was stimulated by the combined effects of thermal and light stress. The results of this research suggest that the sources and physical triggers for biological superoxide production within corals are more complex than currently assumed. Thus, further investigations into the biological processes controlling ROS dynamics within corals are required to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning coral bleaching and to aid in the development of mitigation strategies.