Coral microbiome manipulation elicits metabolic and genetic restructuring to mitigate heat stress and evade mortality

Erika P. Santoro, Ricardo M. Borges, Josh L. Espinoza, Marcelo Freire, Camila S. M. A. Messias, Helena D. M. Villela, Leandro M. Pereira, Caren L. S. Vilela, João G. Rosado, Pedro M. Cardoso, Phillipe M. Rosado, Juliana M. Assis, Gustavo A. S. Duarte, Gabriela Perna, Alexandre S. Rosado, Andrew Macrae, Christopher L. Dupont, Karen E. Nelson, Michael Sweet, Christian R. VoolstraRaquel S Peixoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Beneficial microorganisms for corals (BMCs) ameliorate environmental stress, but whether they can prevent mortality and the underlying host response mechanisms remains elusive. Here, we conducted omics analyses on the coral Mussismilia hispida exposed to bleaching conditions in a long-term mesocosm experiment and inoculated with a selected BMC consortium or a saline solution placebo. All corals were affected by heat stress, but the observed “post-heat stress disorder” was mitigated by BMCs, signified by patterns of dimethylsulfoniopropionate degradation, lipid maintenance, and coral host transcriptional reprogramming of cellular restructuration, repair, stress protection, and immune genes, concomitant with a 40% survival rate increase and stable photosynthetic performance by the endosymbiotic algae. This study provides insights into the responses that underlie probiotic host manipulation. We demonstrate that BMCs trigger a dynamic microbiome restructuring process that instigates genetic and metabolic alterations in the coral host that eventually mitigate coral bleaching and mortality.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)eabg3088
JournalScience advances
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 13 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-08-16
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): BAS/1/1095-01-01
Acknowledgements: This research project won the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge People’s Choice Award supported by The Tiffany & Co.Foundation. C.R.V. was supported through the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; German Research Foundation) Project Numbers 433042944 and 458901010. R.S.P. was supported through KAUST grant number BAS/1/1095-01-01 and the Rio de Janeiro Marine Aquarium Research Center. E.P.S. received support from the Graduate Programs of Science (Microbiology) and Plant Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering (PBV)/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian Government Research Agency CAPES, and the CAPES PRINT international mobility grant.


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