The role of aspartic acid in reducing coral calcification under ocean acidification conditions

Biomolecules play key roles in regulating the precipitation of CaCO3 biominerals but their response to ocean acidification is poorly understood. We analysed the skeletal intracrystalline amino acids of massive, tropical Porites spp. corals cultured over different seawater pCO2. We find that concentrations of total amino acids, aspartic acid/asparagine (Asx), glutamic acid/glutamine and alanine are positively correlated with seawater pCO2 and inversely correlated with seawater pH. Almost all variance in calcification rates between corals can be explained by changes in the skeletal total amino acid, Asx, serine and alanine concentrations combined with the calcification media pH (a likely indicator of the dissolved inorganic carbon available to support calcification). We show that aspartic acid inhibits aragonite precipitation from seawater in vitro, at the pH, saturation state and approximate aspartic acid concentrations inferred to occur at the coral calcification site. Reducing seawater saturation state and increasing [aspartic acid], as occurs in some corals at high pCO2, both serve to increase the degree of inhibition, indicating that biomolecules may contribute to reduced coral calcification rates under ocean acidification.

Kellock C., Cole C., Penkman K., Evans D., Kröger R., Hintz C., Hintz K., Finch A. & Allison N., 2020. The role of aspartic acid in reducing coral calcification under ocean acidification conditions. Scientific Reports 10: 12797. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-69556-0. Article.

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