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A meta-analysis of the stony coral tissue loss disease microbiome finds key bacteria in unaffected and lesion tissue in diseased colonies

March 9, 2023

Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) has been causing significant whole colony mortality on reefs in Florida and the Caribbean. The cause of SCTLD remains unknown, with the limited concurrence of SCTLD-associated bacteria among studies. We conducted a meta-analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA gene datasets generated by 16 field and laboratory SCTLD studies to find consistent bacteria associated with SCTLD across disease zones (vulnerable, endemic, and epidemic), coral species, coral compartments (mucus, tissue, and skeleton), and colony health states (apparently healthy colony tissue (AH), and unaffected (DU) and lesion (DL) tissue from diseased colonies). We also evaluated bacteria in seawater and sediment, which may be sources of SCTLD transmission. Although AH colonies in endemic and epidemic zones harbor bacteria associated with SCTLD lesions, and aquaria and field samples had distinct microbial compositions, there were still clear differences in the microbial composition among AH, DU, and DL in the combined dataset. Alpha-diversity between AH and DL was not different; however, DU showed increased alpha-diversity compared to AH, indicating that, prior to lesion formation, corals may undergo a disturbance to the microbiome. This disturbance may be driven by Flavobacteriales, which were especially enriched in DU. In DL, Rhodobacterales and Peptostreptococcales–Tissierellales were prominent in structuring microbial interactions. We also predict an enrichment of an alpha-toxin in DL samples which is typically found in Clostridia. We provide a consensus of SCTLD-associated bacteria prior to and during lesion formation and identify how these taxa vary across studies, coral species, coral compartments, seawater, and sediment.

Publication Year 2023
Title A meta-analysis of the stony coral tissue loss disease microbiome finds key bacteria in unaffected and lesion tissue in diseased colonies
DOI 10.1038/s43705-023-00220-0
Authors Stephanie M. Rosales, Lindsay K. Huebner, James S. Evans, Amy Apprill, Andew C. Baker, Anthony J. Bellantuono, Marilyn E. Brandt, Abigail S. Clark, Javier del Campo, Caroline E. Dennison, Katherine R. Eaton, Naomi E. Huntley, Christina A. Kellogg, Monica Medina, Julie L. Meyer, Erinn M. Muller, Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty, Jennifer L. Salerno, W. Bane Schill, Erin N. Shilling, Julia Marie Stewart, Joshua D. Voss
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title ISME Communications
Index ID 70241208
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center