A genomic view of the reef-building coral Porites lutea and its microbial symbionts

Steven J. Robbins, Caitlin M. Singleton, Cheong Xin Chan, Lauren F. Messer, Aileen U. Geers, Hua Ying, Alexander Baker, Sara C. Bell, Kathleen M. Morrow, Mark A. Ragan, David J. Miller, Sylvain Forêt, Eldon Ball, Roger Beeden, Michael L. Berumen, Manuel Aranda, Timothy Ravasi, Pim Bongaerts, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Ira CookeBill Leggat, Susan Sprungala, Anna Fitzgerald, Catherine Shang, Petra Lundgren, Theresa Fyffe, Francesco Rubino, Madeleine van Oppen, Karen Weynberg, Christian R. Voolstra, Gene W. Tyson, David G. Bourne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Corals and the reef ecosystems that they support are in global decline due to increasing anthropogenic pressures such as climate change1. However, effective reef conservation strategies are hampered by a limited mechanistic understanding of coral biology and the functional roles of the diverse microbial communities that underpin coral health2,3. Here, we present an integrated genomic characterization of the coral species Porites lutea and its microbial partners. High-quality genomes were recovered from P. lutea, as well as a metagenome-assembled Cladocopium C15 (the dinoflagellate symbiont) and 52 bacterial and archaeal populations. Comparative genomic analysis revealed that many of the bacterial and archaeal genomes encode motifs that may be involved in maintaining association with the coral host and in supplying fixed carbon, B-vitamins and amino acids to their eukaryotic partners. Furthermore, mechanisms for ammonia, urea, nitrate, dimethylsulfoniopropionate and taurine transformation were identified that interlink members of the holobiont and may be important for nutrient acquisition and retention in oligotrophic waters. Our findings demonstrate the critical and diverse roles that microorganisms play within the coral holobiont and underscore the need to consider all of the components of the holobiont if we are to effectively inform reef conservation strategies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2090-2100
Number of pages11
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 23 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We dedicate this effort to the memory of S. Forêt who tragically passed away on the 17th of December 2016: S. Forêt was central to this consortium, an inspiration to us all for his humour, insight, knowledge and character. He unfortunately will not see the outcomes of this work but without him we would never have come so far. A dear friend has been taken too early but his legacy will continue. The data generated for this paper were funded by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Resilient Coral Reefs Successfully Adapting to Climate Change program in collaboration with the Australian Government and Bioplatforms Australia through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, Rio Tinto and a family foundation. The Reef Futures Genomics Consortium was established by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to generate new perspectives, approaches and collaborations to fast-track the progress of reef management-relevant genomics-based coral reef climate adaptation research. G.W.T. is supported by an ARC Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship (DP1093175) and an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT170100070. S.R. is supported by funds from the ReFuGe2020 Consortium and from an ARC Discovery Project (DP160103811). C.X.C. and M.A.R. were supported by an Australian Research Council grant (DP150101875). C.R.V. was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. D.J.M. was supported by funding from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. S.F. was supported by the Australian Research Council grant CE140100020. We thank J. B. Raina, J. Boyd, B. Woodcroft, B. Kemish, S. Low, I. Krippner and M. Butler for helpful discussions and infrastructure support, and H. Smith for graphical design of the coral metabolism schematic.


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