Presence of algal symbionts affects denitrifying bacterial communities in the sea anemone Aiptasia coral model
2022-12, Xiang, Nan, Rädecker, Nils, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Cárdenas, Anny, Meibom, Anders, Wild, Christian, Gärdes, Astrid, Voolstra, Christian R.
The coral-algal symbiosis is maintained by a constant and limited nitrogen availability in the holobiont. Denitrifiers, i.e., prokaryotes reducing nitrate/nitrite to dinitrogen, could contribute to maintaining the nitrogen limitation in the coral holobiont, however the effect of host and algal identity on their community is still unknown. Using the coral model Aiptasia, we quantified and characterized the denitrifier community in a full-factorial design combining two hosts (CC7 and H2) and two strains of algal symbionts of the family Symbiodiniaceae (SSA01 and SSB01). Strikingly, relative abundance of denitrifiers increased by up to 22-fold in photosymbiotic Aiptasia compared to their aposymbiotic (i.e., algal-depleted) counterparts. In line with this, while the denitrifier community in aposymbiotic Aiptasia was largely dominated by diet-associated Halomonas, we observed an increasing relative abundance of an unclassified bacterium in photosymbiotic CC7, and Ketobacter in photosymbiotic H2, respectively. Pronounced changes in denitrifier communities of Aiptasia with Symbiodinium linucheae strain SSA01 aligned with the higher photosynthetic carbon availability of these holobionts compared to Aiptasia with Breviolum minutum strain SSB01. Our results reveal that the presence of algal symbionts increases abundance and alters community structure of denitrifiers in Aiptasia. Thereby, patterns in denitrifier community likely reflect the nutritional status of aposymbiotic vs. symbiotic holobionts. Such a passive regulation of denitrifiers may contribute to maintaining the nitrogen limitation required for the functioning of the cnidarian-algal symbiosis.
Relative abundance of nitrogen cycling microbes in coral holobionts reflects environmental nitrate availability
2021, Tilstra, Arjen, Roth, Florian, El-Khaled, Yusuf C., Pogoreutz, Claudia, Rädecker, Nils, Voolstra, Christian R., Wild, Christian
Recent research suggests that nitrogen (N) cycling microbes are important for coral holobiont functioning. In particular, coral holobionts may acquire bioavailable N via prokaryotic dinitrogen (N2) fixation or remove excess N via denitrification activity. However, our understanding of environmental drivers on these processes in hospite remains limited. Employing the strong seasonality of the central Red Sea, this study assessed the effects of environmental parameters on the proportional abundances of N cycling microbes associated with the hard corals Acropora hemprichii and Stylophora pistillata. Specifically, we quantified changes in the relative ratio between nirS and nifH gene copy numbers, as a proxy for seasonal shifts in denitrification and N2 fixation potential in corals, respectively. In addition, we assessed coral tissue-associated Symbiodiniaceae cell densities and monitored environmental parameters to provide a holobiont and environmental context, respectively. While ratios of nirS to nifH gene copy numbers varied between seasons, they revealed similar seasonal patterns in both coral species, with ratios closely following patterns in environmental nitrate availability. Symbiodiniaceae cell densities aligned with environmental nitrate availability, suggesting that the seasonal shifts in nirS to nifH gene abundance ratios were probably driven by nitrate availability in the coral holobiont. Thereby, our results suggest that N cycling in coral holobionts probably adjusts to environmental conditions by increasing and/or decreasing denitrification and N2 fixation potential according to environmental nitrate availability. Microbial N cycling may, thus, extenuate the effects of changes in environmental nitrate availability on coral holobionts to support the maintenance of the coral–Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis.
Excess labile carbon promotes the expression of virulence factors in coral reef bacterioplankton
2018, Cárdenas, Anny, Neave, Matthew J., Haroon, Mohamed Fauzi, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Rädecker, Nils, Wild, Christian, Gärdes, Astrid, Voolstra, Christian R.
Coastal pollution and algal cover are increasing on many coral reefs, resulting in higher dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. High DOC concentrations strongly affect microbial activity in reef waters and select for copiotrophic, often potentially virulent microbial populations. High DOC concentrations on coral reefs are also hypothesized to be a determinant for switching microbial lifestyles from commensal to pathogenic, thereby contributing to coral reef degradation, but evidence is missing. In this study, we conducted ex situ incubations to assess gene expression of planktonic microbial populations under elevated concentrations of naturally abundant monosaccharides (glucose, galactose, mannose, and xylose) in algal exudates and sewage inflows. We assembled 27 near-complete (>70%) microbial genomes through metagenomic sequencing and determined associated expression patterns through metatranscriptomic sequencing. Differential gene expression analysis revealed a shift in the central carbohydrate metabolism and the induction of metalloproteases, siderophores, and toxins in Alteromonas, Erythrobacter, Oceanicola, and Alcanivorax populations. Sugar-specific induction of virulence factors suggests a mechanistic link for the switch from a commensal to a pathogenic lifestyle, particularly relevant during increased algal cover and human-derived pollution on coral reefs. Although an explicit test remains to be performed, our data support the hypothesis that increased availability of specific sugars changes net microbial community activity in ways that increase the emergence and abundance of opportunistic pathogens, potentially contributing to coral reef degradation.
Sugar enrichment provides evidence for a role of nitrogen fixation in coral bleaching
2017, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Rädecker, Nils, Cárdenas, Anny, Gärdes, Astrid, Voolstra, Christian R., Wild, Christian
The disruption of the coral-algae symbiosis (coral bleaching) due to rising sea surface temperatures has become an unprecedented global threat to coral reefs. Despite decades of research, our ability to manage mass bleaching events remains hampered by an incomplete mechanistic understanding of the processes involved. In this study, we induced a coral bleaching phenotype in the absence of heat and light stress by adding sugars. The sugar addition resulted in coral symbiotic breakdown accompanied by a fourfold increase of coral-associated microbial nitrogen fixation. Concomitantly, increased N:P ratios by the coral host and algal symbionts suggest excess availability of nitrogen and a disruption of the nitrogen limitation within the coral holobiont. As nitrogen fixation is similarly stimulated in ocean warming scenarios, here we propose a refined coral bleaching model integrating the cascading effects of stimulated microbial nitrogen fixation. This model highlights the putative role of nitrogen-fixing microbes in coral holobiont functioning and breakdown.
Contrasting Microbiome Dynamics of Putative Denitrifying Bacteria in Two Octocoral Species Exposed to Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) and Warming
2022-01-25, Xiang, Nan, Hassenrück, Christiane, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Rädecker, Nils, Simancas-Giraldo, Susana Marcela, Voolstra, Christian R., Wild, Christian, Gärdes, Astrid
Mutualistic nutrient cycling in the coral-algae symbiosis depends on limited nitrogen (N) availability for algal symbionts. Denitrifying prokaryotes capable of reducing nitrate or nitrite to dinitrogen could thus support coral holobiont functioning by limiting N availability. Octocorals show some of the highest denitrification rates among reef organisms; however, little is known about the community structures of associated denitrifiers and their response to environmental fluctuations. Combining 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing with nirS in-silico PCR and quantitative PCR, we found differences in bacterial community dynamics between two octocorals exposed to excess dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and concomitant warming. Although bacterial communities of the gorgonian Pinnigorgia flava remained largely unaffected by DOC and warming, the soft coral Xenia umbellata exhibited a pronounced shift toward Alphaproteobacteria dominance under excess DOC. Likewise, the relative abundance of denitrifiers was not altered in P. flava but decreased by 1 order of magnitude in X. umbellata under excess DOC, likely due to decreased proportions of Ruegeria spp. Given that holobiont C:N ratios remained stable in P. flava but showed a pronounced increase with excess DOC in X. umbellata, our results suggest that microbial community dynamics may reflect the nutritional status of the holobiont. Hence, denitrifier abundance may be directly linked to N availability. This suggests a passive regulation of N cycling microbes based on N availability, which could help stabilize nutrient limitation in the coral-algal symbiosis and thereby support holobiont functioning in a changing environment. IMPORTANCE Octocorals are important members of reef-associated benthic communities that can rapidly replace scleractinian corals as the dominant ecosystem engineers on degraded reefs. Considering the substantial change in the (a)biotic environment that is commonly driving reef degradation, maintaining a dynamic and metabolically diverse microbial community might contribute to octocoral acclimatization. Nitrogen (N) cycling microbes, in particular denitrifying prokaryotes, may support holobiont functioning by limiting internal N availability, but little is known about the identity and (a)biotic drivers of octocoral-associated denitrifiers. Here, we show contrasting dynamics of bacterial communities associated with two common octocoral species, the soft coral Xenia umbellata and the gorgonian Pinnigorgia flava after a 6-week exposure to excess dissolved organic carbon under concomitant warming conditions. The specific responses of denitrifier communities of the two octocoral species aligned with the nutritional status of holobiont members. This suggests a passive regulation based on N availability in the coral holobiont.
Denitrification Aligns with N2 Fixation in Red Sea Corals
2019-12-19, Tilstra, Arjen, El‐Khaled, Yusuf C., Roth, Florian, Rädecker, Nils, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Voolstra, Christian R., Wild, Christian
Denitrification may potentially alleviate excess nitrogen (N) availability in coral holobionts to maintain a favourable N to phosphorous ratio in the coral tissue. However, little is known about the abundance and activity of denitrifiers in the coral holobiont. The present study used the nirS marker gene as a proxy for denitrification potential along with measurements of denitrification rates in a comparative coral taxonomic framework from the Red Sea: Acropora hemprichii, Millepora dichotoma, and Pleuractis granulosa. Relative nirS gene copy numbers associated with the tissues of these common corals were assessed and compared with denitrification rates on the holobiont level. In addition, dinitrogen (N2) fixation rates, Symbiodiniaceae cell density, and oxygen evolution were assessed to provide an environmental context for denitrification. We found that relative abundances of the nirS gene were 16- and 17-fold higher in A. hemprichii compared to M. dichotoma and P. granulosa, respectively. In concordance, highest denitrification rates were measured in A. hemprichii, followed by M. dichotoma and P. granulosa. Denitrification rates were positively correlated with N2 fixation rates and Symbiodiniaceae cell densities. Our results suggest that denitrification may counterbalance the N input from N2 fixation in the coral holobiont, and we hypothesize that these processes may be limited by photosynthates released by the Symbiodiniaceae.
Dominance of Endozoicomonas bacteria throughout coral bleaching and mortality suggests structural inflexibility of the Pocillopora verrucosa microbiome
2018, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Rädecker, Nils, Cárdenas, Anny, Gärdes, Astrid, Wild, Christian, Voolstra, Christian R.
The importance of Symbiodinium algal endosymbionts and a diverse suite of bacteria for coral holobiont health and functioning are widely acknowledged. Yet, we know surprisingly little about microbial community dynamics and the stability of host-microbe associations under adverse environmental conditions. To gain insight into the stability of coral host-microbe associations and holobiont structure, we assessed changes in the community structure of Symbiodinium and bacteria associated with the coral Pocillopora verrucosa under excess organic nutrient conditions. Pocillopora-associated microbial communities were monitored over 14 days in two independent experiments. We assessed the effect of excess dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and excess dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Exposure to excess nutrients rapidly affected coral health, resulting in two distinct stress phenotypes: coral bleaching under excess DOC and severe tissue sloughing (>90% tissue loss resulting in host mortality) under excess DON. These phenotypes were accompanied by structural changes in the Symbiodinium community. In contrast, the associated bacterial community remained remarkably stable and was dominated by two Endozoicomonas phylotypes, comprising on average 90% of 16S rRNA gene sequences. This dominance of Endozoicomonas even under conditions of coral bleaching and mortality suggests the bacterial community of P. verrucosa may be rather inflexible and thereby unable to respond or acclimatize to rapid changes in the environment, contrary to what was previously observed in other corals. In this light, our results suggest that coral holobionts might occupy structural landscapes ranging from a highly flexible to a rather inflexible composition with consequences for their ability to respond to environmental change.
Heat stress destabilizes symbiotic nutrient cycling in corals
2021-02-02, Rädecker, Nils, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Gegner, Hagen M., Cárdenas, Anny, Roth, Florian, Bougoure, Jeremy, Guagliardo, Paul, Wild, Christian, Pernice, Mathieu, Voolstra, Christian R.
Recurrent mass bleaching events are pushing coral reefs worldwide to the brink of ecological collapse. While the symptoms and consequences of this breakdown of the coral-algal symbiosis have been extensively characterized, our understanding of the underlying causes remains incomplete. Here, we investigated the nutrient fluxes and the physiological as well as molecular responses of the widespread coral Stylophora pistillata to heat stress prior to the onset of bleaching to identify processes involved in the breakdown of the coral-algal symbiosis. We show that altered nutrient cycling during heat stress is a primary driver of the functional breakdown of the symbiosis. Heat stress increased the metabolic energy demand of the coral host, which was compensated by the catabolic degradation of amino acids. The resulting shift from net uptake to release of ammonium by the coral holobiont subsequently promoted the growth of algal symbionts and retention of photosynthates. Together, these processes form a feedback loop that will gradually lead to the decoupling of carbon translocation from the symbiont to the host. Energy limitation and altered symbiotic nutrient cycling are thus key factors in the early heat stress response, directly contributing to the breakdown of the coral-algal symbiosis. Interpreting the stability of the coral holobiont in light of its metabolic interactions provides a missing link in our understanding of the environmental drivers of bleaching and may ultimately help uncover fundamental processes underpinning the functioning of endosymbioses in general.
Relative Diazotroph Abundance in Symbiotic Red Sea Corals Decreases With Water Depth
2019-07-04, Tilstra, Arjen, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Rädecker, Nils, Ziegler, Maren, Wild, Christian, Voolstra, Christian R.
Microbial dinitrogen (N2) fixation (diazotrophy) is a trait critical for coral holobiont functioning. The contribution of N2 fixation to holobiont nitrogen (N) supply likely depends on the ecological niche of the coral holobiont. Consequently, coral-associated diazotroph communities may exhibit distinct activity patterns across a water depth gradient. We thus compared relative abundances of diazotrophs in the tissues of two common hard coral species, Podabacia sp. and Pachyseris speciosa, along their water depth distribution (10–30 m and 30–50 m, respectively) in the Central Red Sea. The relative gene copy numbers of the nifH gene (i.e., referenced against the eubacterial 16S rRNA gene), as a proxy for N2 fixation potential, were assessed via quantitative PCR. We hypothesized that relative nifH gene copy numbers would decrease with water depth, assuming a related shift from autotrophy to heterotrophy. Findings confirmed this hypothesis and revealed that nifH gene abundances for both corals decreased by ∼97% and ∼90% from the shallowest to the deepest collection site. However, this result was not significant for Pachyseris speciosa due to high biological variability. The observed decrease in nifH gene abundances may be explained by the relative increase in heterotrophy of the coral animal at increasing water depths. Our results underline the importance of interpreting microbial functions and associated nutrient cycling processes within the holobiont in relation to water depth range reflecting steep environmental gradients.
Stimulated Respiration and Net Photosynthesis in Cassiopeia sp. during Glucose Enrichment Suggests in hospite CO2 Limitation of Algal Endosymbionts
2017-08-15, Rädecker, Nils, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Wild, Christian, Voolstra, Christian R.
The endosymbiosis between cnidarians and dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium is key to the high productivity of tropical coral reefs. In this endosymbiosis, Symbiodinium translocate most of their photosynthates to their animal host in exchange for inorganic nutrients. Among these, carbon dioxide (CO2) derived from host respiration helps to meet the carbon requirements to sustain photosynthesis of the dinoflagellates. Nonetheless, recent studies suggest that productivity in symbiotic cnidarians such as corals is CO2-limited. Here we show that glucose enrichment stimulates respiration and gross photosynthesis rates by 80 and 140%, respectively, in the symbiotic upside-down jellyfish Cassiopeia sp. from the Central Red Sea. Our findings show that glucose was rapidly consumed and respired within the Cassiopeia sp. holobiont. The resulting increase of CO2 availability in hospite in turn likely stimulated photosynthesis in Symbiodinium. Hence, the increase of photosynthesis under these conditions suggests that CO2 limitation of Symbiodinium is a common feature of stable cnidarian holobionts and that the stimulation of holobiont metabolism may attenuate this CO2 limitation.