Paracellular transport to the coral calcifying medium: effects of environmental parameters

Coral calcification relies on the transport of ions and molecules to the extracellular calcifying medium (ECM). Little is known about paracellular transport (via intercellular junctions) in corals and other marine calcifiers. Here, we investigated whether the permeability of the paracellular pathway varied in different environmental conditions in the coral Stylophora pistillata. Using the fluorescent dye calcein, we characterised the dynamics of calcein influx from seawater to the ECM and showed that increases in paracellular permeability (leakiness) induced by hyperosmotic treatment could be detected by changes in calcein influx rates. We then used the calcein-imaging approach to investigate the effects of two environmental stressors on paracellular permeability: seawater acidification and temperature change. Under conditions of seawater acidification (pH 7.2) known to depress pH in the ECM and the calcifying cells of S. pistillata, we observed a decrease in half-times of calcein influx, indicating increased paracellular permeability. By contrast, high temperature (31°C) had no effect, whereas low temperature (20°C) caused decreases in paracellular permeability. Overall, our study establishes an approach to conduct further in vivo investigation of paracellular transport and suggests that changes in paracellular permeability could form an uncharacterised aspect of the physiological response of S. pistillata to seawater acidification.


Venn A. A., Bernardet C., Chabenat A., Tambutté E. & Tambutté S., 2020. Paracellular transport to the coral calcifying medium: effects of environmental parameters. Journal of Experimental Biology doi: 10.1242/jeb.227074. Article (subscription required).


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