Coral reefs are in global decline mainly due to increasing sea surface temperatures triggering coral bleaching. Recently, high salinity has been linked to increased thermotolerance and decreased bleaching in the sea anemone coral model Aiptasia. However, the underlying processes remain elusive. Using two Aiptasia host--endosymbiont pairings, we induced bleaching at different salinities and show reduced reactive oxygen species (ROS) release at high salinities, suggesting a role of osmoadaptation in increased thermotolerance. A subsequent screening of osmolytes revealed that this effect was only observed in algal endosymbionts that produce 2-O-glycerol-α-D-galactopyranoside (floridoside), an osmolyte capable of scavenging ROS. This result argues for a mechanistic link between osmoadaptation and thermotolerance, mediated by ROS-scavenging osmolytes (e.g., floridoside). This sheds new light on the putative mechanisms underlying the remarkable thermotolerance of corals from water bodies with high salinity such as the Red Sea or Persian/Arabian Gulf and holds implications for coral thermotolerance under climate change.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank the KAUST ACL and BCL core labs for assistance with GC-MS measurements and flow cytometry. In particular, we would like to thank Najeh Kharbatia for his technical advice at the GC-MS system as well as Luke Esau for his support with the cell analyzer.