Delivering Beneficial Microorganisms for Corals: Rotifers as Carriers of Probiotic Bacteria: Frontiers in Microbiology

Juliana M. Assis, Fernanda Abreu, Helena M.D. Villela, Adam Barno, Rafael F. Valle, Rayssa Vieira, Igor Taveira, Gustavo Duarte, David G. Bourne, Lone Høj, Raquel S. Peixoto

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Scopus citations


    The use of Beneficial Microorganisms for Corals (BMCs) to increase the resistance of corals to environmental stress has proven to be effective in laboratory trials. Because direct inoculation of BMCs in larger tanks or in the field can be challenging, a delivery mechanism is needed for efficient transmission of the BMC consortium. Packaged delivery mechanisms have been successfully used to transmit probiotics to other organisms, including humans, lobsters, and fish. Here, we tested a method for utilizing rotifers of the species Brachionus plicatilis for delivery of BMCs to corals of the species Pocillopora damicornis. Epifluorescence microscopy combined with a live/dead cell staining assay was used to evaluate the viability of the BMCs and monitor their in vivo uptake by the rotifers. The rotifers efficiently ingested BMCs, which accumulated in the digestive system and on the body surface after 10 min of interaction. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed the adherence of BMCs to the rotifer surfaces. BMC-enriched rotifers were actively ingested by P. damicornis corals, indicating that this is a promising technique for administering coral probiotics in situ. Studies to track the delivery of probiotics through carriers such as B. plicatilis, and the provision or establishment of beneficial traits in corals are the next proof-of-concept research priorities.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
    StatePublished - Dec 15 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Export Date: 5 May 2021

    Correspondence Address: Peixoto, R.S.; Laboratory of Molecular Microbial Ecology, Brazil; email:

    Correspondence Address: Abreu, F.; Laboratory of Cellular Biology and Magnetotaxis, Brazil; email:

    Correspondence Address: Peixoto, R.S.; IMAM-AquaRio – Rio de Janeiro Aquarium Research CenterBrazil; email:

    Manufacturers: Zeiss, Germany

    Funding details: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPq

    Funding details: Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, CAPES

    Funding details: Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, FAPERJ

    Funding details: Great Barrier Reef Foundation, GBRF

    Funding details: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, UFRJ

    Funding text 1: RP, DB, LH, FA, and JMA conceived and designed the study. JMA, RFV, GD, and RV maintained the coral and rotifer cultures. JMA, IT, and FA performed the microscopy experiments. RP, JMA, FA, HV, and AB drafted the manuscript. RP provided financial support. All authors were involved in critical revision.

    Funding text 2: This manuscript is part of the research project that 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. It also received support from the Graduate Programs of Science (Microbiology) and Plant Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering (PBV)/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), the Rio de Janeiro Marine Aquarium Research Center, the Carlos Chagas Filho Foundation for Research Support of Rio de Janeiro State (FAPERJ), and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Brazil (CAPES).

    Funding text 3: We thank the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, IMAM-AquaRio, CNPq, FAPERJ, the Graduate Programs of Science (Microbiology) and Plant Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering (PBV)/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro for sponsoring this work. IMAM-AquaRio for providing infrastructure, corals, and rotifers. We also thank UniMicro for the support with the fluorescence microscopy experiments. Finally, we thank the National Center for Structural Biology and Bioimaging for the support with the SEM analyses.

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    • Beneficial Microorganisms for Corals (BMCs)
    • Brachionus plicatilis
    • coral reefs
    • delivery
    • marine probiotics
    • microscopy
    • Pocillopora damicornis
    • rotifers
    • probiotic agent
    • Article
    • autofluorescence
    • bacterium identification
    • Brachionus
    • cell viability
    • coral reef
    • DNA extraction
    • epifluorescence microscopy
    • in vivo study
    • marine environment
    • microbial consortium
    • nonhuman
    • Rotifera
    • scanning electron microscopy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Microbiology (medical)
    • Microbiology


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