Microarray analysis reveals transcriptional plasticity in the reef building coral Acropora millepora

Authors

  • LINE K. BAY,

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
    2. Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB #3, Townsville MC, Qld 4810, Australia
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  • KARIN E. ULSTRUP,

    1. Marine Biological Laboratory, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Strandpromenaden 5, DK-3000 Helsingør, Denmark
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  • H. BJØRN NIELSEN,

    1. Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Danish Technical University, Kemitorvet, Building 208, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark
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  • HANNE JARMER,

    1. Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Danish Technical University, Kemitorvet, Building 208, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark
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  • NICOLAS GOFFARD,

    1. Institut Louis Malardé, PO Box 30, Papeete 98713, Tahiti, French Polynesia
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  • BETTE L. WILLIS,

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
    2. School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
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  • DAVID J. MILLER,

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
    2. ARC Centre for the Molecular Genetics of Development, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, ACT 2601, Canberra, Australia
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  • MADELEINE J. H. VAN OPPEN

    1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia
    2. Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB #3, Townsville MC, Qld 4810, Australia
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  • L.K.B.’s research combines genetic, genomic and physiological approaches to understand the ecology and evolution of coral reef organisms. She hopes to increase our understanding of the adaptive potential of corals to conserve these iconic ecosystems in the future. K.E.U. researches photophysiology and chemical microenvironment of microalgae in diffusion limited environments. H.B.N. and H.J. are interested in integrating diverse data domains such as gene expression data, protein-protein interaction data, gene ontology, genome wide association studies, and noncoding RNAs. N.G. is interested in the development and application of integrative bioinformatics methods for the analysis of gene expression. B.L.W.s’ research activities concern the biology and ecology of corals, particularly relating to the ecological significance of coral disease and the role of Symbiodinium-coral endosymbiosis. D.J.M.’s interests lie in the genomics and developmental biology of corals and other ‘lower’ animals, and the molecular bases of taxonomically restricted traits. J.H.V.O.’s work focuses on the resilience of corals and their algal symbionts and their potential to adapt and acclimatize to climate change.

Line K. Bay, Fax: +7 4725 1570; E-mail: line.bay@jcu.edu.au

Abstract

We investigated variation in transcript abundance in the scleractinian coral, Acropora millepora, within and between populations characteristically exposed to different turbidity regimes and hence different levels of light and suspended particulate matter. We examined phenotypic plasticity by comparing levels of gene expression between source populations and following 10 days of acclimatization to a laboratory environment. Analyses of variance revealed that 0.05% of genes were differentially expressed between source populations, 1.32% following translocation into a common laboratory and 0.07% in the interaction (source population-dependent responses to translocation). Functional analyses identified an over-representation of differentially expressed genes associated with metabolism and fluorescence categories (primarily downregulated), and environmental information processing (primarily upregulated) following translocation to a lower light and turbidity environment. Such metabolic downregulation may indicate nonoxidative stress, hibernation or caloric restriction associated with the changed environmental conditions. Green fluorescent protein-related genes were the most differentially expressed and were exclusively downregulated; however, green fluorescent protein levels remained unchanged following translocation. Photophysiological responses of corals from both locations were characterized by a decline when introduced to the common laboratory environment but remained healthy (Fv/Fm > 0.6). Declines in total lipid content following translocation were the greatest for inshore corals, suggesting that turbid water corals have a strong reliance on heterotrophic feeding.

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