Rapid thermal adaptation in photosymbionts of reef-building corals

Chakravarti, Leela J., Beltran, Victor H., and van Oppen, Madeleine J.H. (2017) Rapid thermal adaptation in photosymbionts of reef-building corals. Global Change Biology, 23 (11). pp. 4675-4688.

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Climate warming is occurring at a rate not experienced by life on Earth for 10s of millions of years, and it is unknown whether the coral-dinoflagellate (Symbiodinium spp.) symbiosis can evolve fast enough to ensure coral reef persistence. Coral thermal tolerance is partly dependent on the Symbiodinium hosted. Therefore, directed laboratory evolution in Symbiodinium has been proposed as a strategy to enhance coral holobiont thermal tolerance. Using a reciprocal transplant design, we show that the upper temperature tolerance and temperature tolerance range of Symbiodinium C1 increased after similar to 80 asexual generations (2.5 years) of laboratory thermal selection. Relative to wild-type cells, selected cells showed superior photophysiological performance and growth rate at 31 degrees C invitro, and performed no worse at 27 degrees C; they also had lower levels of extracellular reactive oxygen species (exROS). In contrast, wild-type cells were unable to photosynthesise or grow at 31 degrees C and produced up to 17 times more exROS. In symbiosis, the increased thermal tolerance acquired ex hospite was less apparent. In recruits of two of three species tested, those harbouring selected cells showed no difference in growth between the 27 and 31 degrees C treatments, and a trend of positive growth at both temperatures. Recruits that were inoculated with wild-type cells, however, showed a significant difference in growth rates between the 27 and 31 degrees C treatments, with a negative growth trend at 31 degrees C. There were no significant differences in the rate and severity of bleaching in coral recruits harbouring wild-type or selected cells. Our findings highlight the need for additional Symbiodinium genotypes to be tested with this assisted evolution approach. Deciphering the genetic basis of enhanced thermal tolerance in Symbiodinium and the cause behind its limited transference to the coral holobiont in this genotype of Symbiodinium C1 are important next steps for developing methods that aim to increase coral bleaching tolerance.

Item ID: 51328
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2486
Keywords: Acropora cytherea, Acropora hyacinthus, Acropora sarmentosa, assisted evolution, coral bleaching, experimental evolution, Great Barrier Reef, Symbiodinium, thermal stress
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Chakravarti, Leela J. (2019) Manipulation of coral photosymbionts for enhancing resilience to environmental change. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2017 07:42
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310403 Biological adaptation @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 100%
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