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Gene expression responses of stony corals to ocean acidification from shallow to mesophotic reefs Part of the NOAA Omics Seminar Series

May 15 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Presenter(s): Federica Scucchia, Postdoctoral Associate, Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida

Sponsor(s): NOAA Omics

Seminar Contact(s): Nicole Miller, NOAA ‘Omics Portfolio Specialist,

Remote Access: Register Here – this link opens in a new window

Abstract: The integrity of coral reefs worldwide is jeopardized by the lowering seawater pH, a process known as ocean acidification (OA). Most studies conducted so far have focused on the vulnerability to OA of corals inhabiting shallow reefs while less is known about the response of mesophotic scleractinian corals. In this study, we assessed the susceptibility to OA of corals, together with their algal symbionts, inhabiting a wide depth range. We exposed fragments of the depth generalist coral Stylophora pistillata collected from either 5 or 45 m in Eilat (Red Sea) to simulated future OA conditions, and assessed key molecular, physiological and photosynthetic processes influenced by the lowered pH. Our comparative analysis reveals that mesophotic and shallow S. pistillata corals are genetically distinct and possess different symbiont types. Overall, our gene expression and physiological analyses show that mesophotic corals possess a greater capacity to cope with the effects of OA compared to their shallow counterparts. Such capability stems from physiological characteristics (i.e., biomass and lipids energetics), a greater capacity to regulate cellular acid” base parameters, and a higher baseline expression of cell adhesion and extracellular matrix genes. Moreover, our gene expression analysis suggests that the enhanced symbiont photochemical efficiency under high pCO2 levels could prevent acidosis of the host cells and it could support a greater translocation of photosynthates, increasing the energy pool available to the host. With this work, we provide new insights on key genetic and physiological traits underlying the potential for corals to cope with future OA conditions.

Bio(s): Federica Succhia received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Bologna, Italy, She then pursued her Master’s under a joint program between the University of Bologna and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), where she focused on coral biology and gene expression. While at UCSB, she obtained the AAUS Scientific Diving certification, which allowed her to dive for her research on corals during her PhD at the Inter-University Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel. There, she focused on the influence of environmental factors on the physiology, morphology and gene expression of stony corals across life stages and depths. Federica joined the Martindale Lab at the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida, last year as a postdoctoral associate. Her research is focused on utilizing the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis as a universal expression platform to investigate various aspects of biomineralization for environmental restoration purposes (for example, coral reef conservation), using a variety of techniques including transgenesis and protein engineering.


May 15
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm