Microbial relationships are critical to coral health, and changes in microbiomes are often exhibited following environmental disturbance. However, the dynamics of coral-microbial composition and external factors that govern coral microbiome assembly and response to disturbance remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we investigated how antibiotic-induced disturbance affects the coral mucus microbiota in the facultatively symbiotic temperate coral Astrangia poculata, which occurs naturally with high (symbiotic) or low (aposymbiotic) densities of the endosymbiotic dinoflagellate Breviolum psygmophilum. We also explored how differences in the mucus microbiome of natural and disturbed A. poculata colonies affected levels of extracellular superoxide, a reactive oxygen species thought to have both beneficial and detrimental effects on coral health. Using a bacterial and archaeal small-subunit (SSU) rRNA gene sequencing approach, we found that antibiotic exposure significantly altered the composition of the mucus microbiota but that it did not influence superoxide levels, suggesting that superoxide production in A. poculata is not influenced by the mucus microbiota. In antibiotic-treated A. poculata exposed to ambient seawater, mucus microbiota recovered to its initial state within 2 weeks following exposure, and six bacterial taxa played a prominent role in this reassembly. Microbial composition among symbiotic colonies was more similar throughout the 2-week recovery period than that among aposymbiotic colonies, whose microbiota exhibited significantly more interindividual variability after antibiotic treatment and during recovery. This work suggests that the A. poculata mucus microbiome can rapidly reestablish itself and that the presence of B. psygmophilum, perhaps by supplying nutrients, photosynthate, or other signaling molecules, exerts influence on this process.
Bent, S., Miller, C., Sharp, K., Hansel, C., & Apprill, A. (2021). Differential patterns of microbiota recovery in symbiotic and aposymbiotic corals following antibiotic disturbance. mSystems, 6 (2) https://doi.org/10.1128/MSYSTEMS.01086-20
National Science Foundation
NSF REU OCE-1659463