Transcriptomes and expression profiling of deep-sea corals from the Red Sea provide insight into the biology of azooxanthellate corals

Lauren Yum, Sebastian Baumgarten, Till Röthig, Cornelia Roder, Anna Krystyna Roik, Craig Michell, Christian R. Voolstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Despite the importance of deep-sea corals, our current understanding of their ecology and evolution is limited due to difficulties in sampling and studying deep-sea environments. Moreover, a recent re-evaluation of habitat limitations has been suggested after characterization of deep-sea corals in the Red Sea, where they live at temperatures of above 20 °C at low oxygen concentrations. To gain further insight into the biology of deep-sea corals, we produced reference transcriptomes and studied gene expression of three deep-sea coral species from the Red Sea, i.e. Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus typus. Our analyses suggest that deep-sea coral employ mitochondrial hypometabolism and anaerobic glycolysis to manage low oxygen conditions present in the Red Sea. Notably, we found expression of genes related to surface cilia motion that presumably enhance small particle transport rates in the oligotrophic deep-sea environment. This is the first study to characterize transcriptomes and in situ gene expression for deep-sea corals. Our work offers several mechanisms by which deep-sea corals might cope with the distinct environmental conditions present in the Red Sea As such, our data provide direction for future research and further insight to organismal response of deep-sea coral to environmental change and ocean warming.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 25 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank the crew of the R/V Aegaeo, especially the ROV and submersible team, and all participating scientists. We would like to thank CMOR for assistance and support in field operations and the BioScience Core Lab for assistance with sequencing. This work was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), baseline funds to CRV and Center Competitive Funding (CCF) Program FCC/1/1973-18-01.


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