Genetic immune response of Florida corals to rapidly-spreading disease

Great star coral colony (Montastraea cuvernosa) found on the Florida Reef Tract. Infected by stony coral tissue disease. Credit: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research InstituteScientists at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have conducted a new study that reveals the response of coral genes to a rapidly spreading disease that has decimated corals in Florida and the Caribbean. These findings will help us better understand the coral immune system, as new diseases arise as the ocean heats.Researchers at the Smithsonian Marine Station, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the UM Rosenstiel School have documented the first gene expression response of corals in response to stony coral tissue death disease. This includes a shared immune response among at least two coral speciesmountainous coral (O. faveolata), and great coral (M. cavernosa)."This research is crucial in our efforts to preserve Florida's coral reefs," stated Nikki TraylorKnowles, an assistant professor at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine Biology and Ecology. It is crucial that we understand how climate change and other diseases may impact their immune systems and how they might be able to help or hinder their health.Stoney coral tissue loss disease, which first appeared in 2014 and has since affected more than 20 species of corals in Florida, has spread to other parts of the Caribbean.The researchers exposed healthy corals and their tissue to the stony coral tissue death disease to examine their cellular reactions. The researchers discovered a network genes that are important for cell reactions, including cell death, immune system, and tissue rearrangement. This indicates that the disease is causing rapid cell death and tissue rearrangement.Researchers discovered an interesting group of genes calledperoxidases. They are important for stress response in vertebrates and played an important role in the later stage of the disease in corals.Learn more about Elkhorn coral active in fighting diseases on reefs, and study findingsFurther information: Nikki Traylor–Knowles, Gene Expression Response To Stony Coral Tissue loss Disease Transmission in M. cavernosa & O. faveolata, Florida Frontiers in Marine Science (2021). Information from Frontiers in Marine Science Nikki Traylor–Knowles and colleagues, Gene Expression Response To Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Transmission in M. cavernosa & O. faveolata, Florida, (2021). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.681563