The acute transcriptomic response of coral-algae interactions to pH fluctuation

Little is known about how the coral host and its endosymbiont interactions change when they are exposed to a sudden nonlinear environmental transformation, yet this is crucial to coral survival in extreme events. Here, we present a study that investigates the transcriptomic response of corals and their endosymbionts to an abrupt change in pH (pH 7.60 and 8.35). The transcriptome indicates that the endosymbiont demonstrates a synchronized downregulation in carbon acquisition and fixation processes and may result in photosynthetic dysfunction in endosymbiotic Symbiodinium, suggesting that the mutualistic continuum of coral–algae interactions is compromised in response to high-CO2 exposure. Transcriptomic data also shows that corals are still capable of calcifying in response to the low pH but could experience a series of negative effects on their energy dynamics, which including protein damage, DNA repair, ion transport, cellular apoptosis, calcification acclimation and maintenance of intracellular pH homeostasis and stress tolerance to pH swing. This suggests enhanced energy costs for coral metabolic adaptation. This study provides a deeper understanding of the biological basis related to the symbiotic corals in response to extreme future climate change and environmental variability.

Lin Z., Wang L., Chen M. & Chen J., in press. The acute transcriptomic response of coral-algae interactions to pH fluctuation. Marine Genomics. Article (subscription required).

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