Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Stony coral tissue loss disease in Florida is associated with disruption of host–zooxanthellae physiology

December 16, 2020

Samples from eight species of corals (Colpophyllia natans, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Diploria labyrinthiformis, Meandrina meandrites, Montastraea cavernosa, Orbicella faveolata, Pseudodiploria strigosa, and Siderastrea siderea) that exhibited gross clinical signs of acute, subacute, or chronic tissue loss attributed to stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) were collected from the Florida Reef Tract during 2016–2018 and examined histopathologically. The hallmark microscopic lesion seen in all eight species was focal to multifocal lytic necrosis (LN) originating in the gastrodermis of the basal body wall (BBW) and extending to the calicodermis, with more advanced lesions involving the surface body wall. This was accompanied by other degenerative changes in host cells such as mucocyte hypertrophy, degradation and fragmentation of gastrodermal architecture, and disintegration of the mesoglea. Zooxanthellae manifested various changes including necrosis (cytoplasmic hypereosinophilia, pyknosis); peripheral nuclear chromatin condensation; cytoplasmic vacuolation accompanied by deformation, swelling, or atrophy; swollen accumulation bodies; prominent pyrenoids; and degraded chloroplasts. Polyhedral intracytoplasmic eosinophilic periodic acid–Schiff-positive crystalline inclusion bodies (∼1–10 μm in length) were seen only in M. cavernosa and P. strigosa BBW gastrodermis in or adjacent to active lesions and some unaffected areas (without surface lesions) of diseased colonies. Coccoidlike or coccobacilloidlike structures (Gram-neutral) reminiscent of microorganisms were occasionally associated with LN lesions or seen in apparently healthy tissue of diseased colonies along with various parasites and other bacteria all considered likely secondary colonizers. Of the 82 samples showing gross lesions of SCTLD, 71 (87%) were confirmed histologically to have LN. Collectively, pathology indicates that SCTLD is the result of a disruption of host–symbiont physiology with lesions originating in the BBW leading to detachment and sloughing of tissues from the skeleton. Future investigations could focus on identifying the cause and pathogenesis of this process.

Publication Year 2020
Title Stony coral tissue loss disease in Florida is associated with disruption of host–zooxanthellae physiology
DOI 10.3389/fmars.2020.576013
Authors Jan Landsberg, Yasu Kiryu, Esther Peters, Patrick Wilson, Yvonne Waters, Kerry Maxwell, Lindsay Huebner, Thierry M. Work
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Marine Science
Index ID 70218474
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center