Adaptation of cyanobacteria to the sulfide-rich microenvironment of black band disease of coral


  • Present address: Jamie L. Myers, Miami Institute for Human Genomics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA

  • Editor: Gary King

Correspondence: Jamie L. Myers, Miami Institute for Human Genomics, 12500 SW 152nd St, UM South Campus Building C, Miami, FL 33177, USA. Tel.: +1305 243 1044; fax: +1305 969 3563; e-mail:


Black band disease (BBD) is a cyanobacteria-dominated microbial mat that migrates across living coral colonies lysing coral tissue and leaving behind exposed coral skeleton. The mat is sulfide-rich due to the presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria, integral members of the BBD microbial community, and the sulfide they produce is lethal to corals. The effect of sulfide, normally toxic to cyanobacteria, on the photosynthetic capabilities of five BBD cyanobacterial isolates of the genera Geitlerinema (3), Leptolyngbya (1), and Oscillatoria (1) and six non-BBD cyanobacteria of the genera Leptolyngbya (3), Pseudanabaena (2), and Phormidium (1) was examined. Photosynthetic experiments were performed by measuring the photoincorporation of [14C] NaHCO3 under the following conditions: (1) aerobic (no sulfide), (2) anaerobic with 0.5 mM sulfide, and (3) anaerobic with 0.5 mM sulfide and 10 μM 3-(3′,4′-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea (DCMU). All five BBD cyanobacterial isolates tolerated sulfide by conducting sulfide-resistant oxygenic photosynthesis. Five of the non-BBD cyanobacterial isolates did not tolerate sulfide, although one Pseudanabaena isolate continued to photosynthesize in the presence of sulfide at a considerably reduced rate. None of the isolates conducted anoxygenic photosynthesis with sulfide as an electron donor. This is the first report on the physiology of a culture of Oscillatoria sp. found globally in BBD.