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Why corals reject life-saving algae

Scientists unlock genetic mystery: Why corals reject life-saving algae

Credit: Florida International University

Algae can help corals adapt to warming seas, but scientists have discovered they have relationship issues. It's complicated.

Algae can take shelter in the coral, flourish and provide food for the coral. It's a symbiotic relationship that existed as long as the corals were in the sea. But the algae that finds comfort in more shallow corals today can not handle warming waters.

Durusdinium trenchii can do all this and take the heat. It just can not do it fast enough. Researchers at the FIU have discovered why-it can not overcome the immune response of corals. The FIU research team also found this particular algae can not open all the genetic gates in coral cells to make a fruitful relationship.

Without algae, corals turn white.

"When they become bleached for a long period of time, corals are more susceptible to diseases," said Emmanuel Medrano, lead author of the study and FIU biological sciences alumnus who conducted the research as a undergraduate student. "This leads to a breakdown of coral reef health, which affects the diversity of marine species and fisheries."

Corals could avoid a potential knockout punch in the hands of warming seas if scientists can help D. trenchii Bypass the immune response of the corals and open those genetic gates.

Preventing corals from bleaching events is crucial for reversing the global trend of coral reef loss.

Marine Science Associate Professor Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty, who directs the lab where the research was conducted, hopes his team can manipulate these mechanisms to help new micro algae engage in more stable symbiosis. They are currently investigating whether it is possible to modify the genes of D. trenchii It has an easier time flourishing in corals or whether it's possible to change the gene of corals to favor D. trenchii.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Understanding relationship break-ups to protect the reef

More information:
Emmanuel Medrano et al. Proteomic Basis of Symbiosis: A Heterologous Partner Fails to Duplicate Homologous Colonization in a Novel Cnidarian- Symbiodiniaceae Mutualism, Frontiers in Microbiology (2019). DOI: 10.3389 / fmicb.2019.01153

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Florida International University

                                                 Scientists unlock genetic mystery: Why corals reject life-saving algae (2019, June 6)
                                                 retrieved 6 June 2019

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