Nutrient stress arrests tentacle growth in the coral model Aiptasia
2019-05, Rädecker, Nils, Chen, Jit Ern, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Herrera, Marcela, Aranda, Manuel, Voolstra, Christian R.
The symbiosis between cnidarians and dinoflagellate algae of the family Symbiodiniaceae builds the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. The sea anemone Aiptasia is an emerging model organism promising to advance our functional understanding of this symbiotic association. Here, we report the observation of a novel phenotype of symbiotic Aiptasia likely induced by severe nutrient starvation. Under these conditions, developing Aiptasia no longer grow any tentacles. At the same time, fully developed Aiptasia do not lose their tentacles, yet produce asexual offspring lacking tentacles. This phenotype, termed ‘Wurst’ Aiptasia, can be easily induced and reverted by nutrient starvation and addition, respectively. Thereby, this observation may offer a new experimental framework to study mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity as well as nutrient cycling within the Cnidaria – Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis.
Assessing the effects of iron enrichment across holobiont compartments reveals reduced microbial nitrogen fixation in the Red Sea coral Pocillopora verrucosa
2017, Rädecker, Nils, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Ziegler, Maren, Ashok, Ananya, Barreto, Marcelle M., Chaidez, Veronica, Grupstra, Carsten G. B., Ng, Yi Mei, Perna, Gabriela, Aranda, Manuel, Voolstra, Christian R.
The productivity of coral reefs in oligotrophic tropical waters is sustained by an efficient uptake and recycling of nutrients. In reef-building corals, the engineers of these ecosystems, this nutrient recycling is facilitated by a constant exchange of nutrients between the animal host and endosymbiotic photosynthetic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae), bacteria, and other microbes. Due to the complex interactions in this so-called coral holobiont, it has proven difficult to understand the environmental limitations of productivity in corals. Among others, the micronutrient iron has been proposed to limit primary productivity due to its essential role in photosynthesis and bacterial processes. Here, we tested the effect of iron enrichment on the physiology of the coral Pocillopora verrucosa from the central Red Sea during a 12-day experiment. Contrary to previous reports, we did not see an increase in zooxanthellae population density or gross photosynthesis. Conversely, respiration rates were significantly increased, and microbial nitrogen fixation was significantly decreased. Taken together, our data suggest that iron is not a limiting factor of primary productivity in Red Sea corals. Rather, increased metabolic demands in response to iron enrichment, as evidenced by increased respiration rates, may reduce carbon (i.e., energy) availability in the coral holobiont, resulting in reduced microbial nitrogen fixation. This decrease in nitrogen supply in turn may exacerbate the limitation of other nutrients, creating a negative feedback loop. Thereby, our results highlight that the effects of iron enrichment appear to be strongly dependent on local environmental conditions and ultimately may depend on the availability of other nutrients.
Using Aiptasia as a Model to Study Metabolic Interactions in Cnidarian-Symbiodinium Symbioses
2018, Rädecker, Nils, Raina, Jean-Baptiste, Pernice, Mathieu, Perna, Gabriela, Guagliardo, Paul, Kilburn, Matt R., Aranda, Manuel, Voolstra, Christian R.
The symbiosis between cnidarian hosts and microalgae of the genus Symbiodinium provides the foundation of coral reefs in oligotrophic waters. Understanding the nutrient-exchange between these partners is key to identifying the fundamental mechanisms behind this symbiosis, yet has proven difficult given the endosymbiotic nature of this relationship. In this study, we investigated the respective contribution of host and symbiont to carbon and nitrogen assimilation in the coral model anemone Aiptaisa. For this, we combined traditional measurements with nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) and stable isotope labeling to investigate patterns of nutrient uptake and translocation both at the organismal scale and at the cellular scale. Our results show that the rate of carbon and nitrogen assimilation in Aiptasia depends on the identity of the host and the symbiont. NanoSIMS analysis confirmed that both host and symbiont incorporated carbon and nitrogen into their cells, implying a rapid uptake and cycling of nutrients in this symbiotic relationship. Gross carbon fixation was highest in Aiptasia associated with their native Symbiodinium communities. However, differences in fixation rates were only reflected in the δ13C enrichment of the cnidarian host, whereas the algal symbiont showed stable enrichment levels regardless of host identity. Thereby, our results point toward a "selfish" character of the cnidarian-Symbiodinium association in which both partners directly compete for available resources. Consequently, this symbiosis may be inherently instable and highly susceptible to environmental change. While questions remain regarding the underlying cellular controls of nutrient exchange and the nature of metabolites involved, the approach outlined in this study constitutes a powerful toolset to address these questions.
High salinity conveys thermotolerance in the coral model Aiptasia
2017-12-15, Gegner, Hagen M., Ziegler, Maren, Rädecker, Nils, Aranda, Manuel, Voolstra, Christian R., Buitrago-Lopez, Carol
The endosymbiosis between dinoflagellate algae of the genus Symbiodinium and stony corals provides the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. Coral bleaching, the expulsion of endosymbionts from the coral host tissue as a consequence of heat or light stress, poses a threat to reef ecosystem functioning on a global scale. Hence, a better understanding of the factors contributing to heat stress susceptibility and tolerance is needed. In this regard, some of the most thermotolerant corals live in particularly saline habitats, but possible effects of high salinity on thermotolerance in corals are anecdotal. Here we test the hypothesis that high salinity may lead to increased thermotolerance. We conducted a heat stress experiment at low, intermediate, and high salinities using a set of host-endosymbiont combinations of the coral model Aiptasia. As expected, all host-endosymbiont combinations showed reduced photosynthetic efficiency and endosymbiont loss during heat stress, but the severity of bleaching was significantly reduced with increasing salinities for one of the host-endosymbiont combinations. Our results show that higher salinities can convey increased thermotolerance in Aiptasia, although this effect seems to be dependent on the particular host strain and/or associated symbiont type. This finding may help explain the extraordinarily high thermotolerance of corals in high salinity environments, such as the Red Sea and the Persian/Arabian Gulf, and provides novel insight regarding factors that contribute to thermotolerance. Since our results are based on a salinity effect in symbiotic sea anemones, it remains to be determined whether this salinity effect can also be observed in stony corals.