DAO 107:161-171 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02664

Microbial functional genes associated with coral health and disease

Zoe A. Pratte*

Florida International University, Department of Biological Sciences, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, Florida 33199, USA

ABSTRACT: Both the incidence and prevalence of coral disease are rapidly increasing, and as a consequence, many studies involving coral microbial associates have been conducted. However, very few of these have considered microbial functional genes. This is an underutilized approach for studying coral disease etiology which is capable of revealing the molecular processes of the coral microbial community. This review presents a summary of the known microbial functional genes that have been linked to coral health and disease. Overall functional gene diversity tended to be lower in healthy corals than diseased or bleached corals, and respiration and photosynthesis functional genes appeared to be crucial to coral health. Genes associated with the nitrogen cycle were the most studied, were highly represented within the coral holobiont, and their expression often shifted in diseased or stressed individuals. Carbon metabolism, such as fatty acid and amino acid catabolism, also tended to shift in unhealthy corals. Genes associated with sulfite respiration as well as dimethylsulfoniopropionate degradation have been detected, although they have yet to be directly associated with coral disease. In addition, genes associated with xenobiotic degradation, antibiotic resistance, virulence, and oxidative stress may all be involved in maintaining coral health. However, the links between these functional genes and their roles in interacting with the coral host are not clear. Continuing identification of coral-associated microbial functional genes within the coral holobiont should facilitate advances in the field of coral health and disease.

KEY WORDS: Etiology · Biogeochemical cycling · Holobiont · Functional diversity · Antibiotic resistance

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Cite this article as: Pratte ZA (2013) Microbial functional genes associated with coral health and disease. Dis Aquat Org 107:161-171. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02664

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