Exposure to heat stress has been recognized as one of the major factors leading to the breakdown of the coral-alga symbiosis and coral bleaching. Here, we describe the presence of three new cytochrome P450 (CYP) genes from the reef-building coral endosymbiont Symbiodinium (type C3) and changes in their expression during exposure to severe and moderate heat stress conditions. Sequence analysis of the CYP C-terminal region and two conserved domains, the “PERF” and “heme-binding” domains, confirmed the separate identities of the CYP genes analyzed. In order to explore the effects of different heat stress scenarios, samples of the scleractinian coral Acropora millepora were exposed to elevated temperatures incrementally over an 18-h period (rapid thermal stress) and over a 120-h period (gradual thermal stress). After 18 h of gradual heating and incubation at 26°C, the Symbiodinium CYP mRNA pool was approximately 30% larger, while a further 6°C increase to a temperature above the average sea temperature (29°C after 72 h) resulted in a 2- to 4-fold increase in CYP expression. Both rapid heat stress and gradual heat stress at 32°C resulted in 50% to 90% decreases in CYP gene transcript abundance. Consequently, the initial upregulation of expression of CYP genes at moderately elevated temperatures (26°C and 29°C) was followed by a decrease in expression under the greater thermal stress conditions at 32°C. These findings indicate that in the coral-alga symbiosis under heat stress conditions there is production of chemical stressors and/or transcriptional factors that regulate the expression of genes, such as the genes encoding cytochrome P450 monooxygenases, that are involved in the first line of an organism’s chemical defense.
Rosic, NN, Pernice, M, Dunn, S, Dove, S & Hoegh-Guldberg, O 2010, 'Differential regulation by heat stress of novel cytochrome P450 genes from the dinoflagellate symbionts of reef-building corals', Applied and Environmental Microbiology, vol. 76, no. 9, pp. 2823-2829.
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