Metabolite Profiling of Red Sea Corals

  • Alejandra Ortega

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Looking at the metabolite profile of an organism provides insights into the metabolomic state of a cell and hence also into pathways employed. Little is known about the metabolites produced by corals and their algal symbionts. In particular, corals from the central Red Sea are understudied, but interesting study objects, as they live in one of the warmest and most saline environments and can provide clues as to the adjustment of corals to environmental change. In this study, we applied gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC–MS) metabolite profiling to analyze the metabolic profile of four coral species and their associated symbionts: Fungia granulosa, Acropora hemprichii, Porites lutea, and Pocillopora verrucosa. We identified and quantified 102 compounds among primary and secondary metabolites across all samples. F. granulosa and its symbiont showed a total of 59 metabolites which were similar to the 51 displayed by P. verrucosa. P. lutea and A. hemprichii both harbored 40 compounds in conjunction with their respective isolated algae. Comparing across species, 28 metabolites were exclusively present in algae, while 38 were exclusive to corals. A principal component and cluster analyses revealed that metabolite profiles clustered between corals and algae, but each species harbored a distinct catalog of metabolites. The major classes of compounds were carbohydrates and amino acids. Taken together, this study provides a first description of metabolites of Red Sea corals and their associated symbionts. As expected, the metabolites of coral hosts differ from their algal symbionts, but each host and algal species harbor a unique set of metabolites. This corroborates that host-symbiont species pairs display a fine-tuned complementary metabolism that provide insights into the specific nature of the symbiosis. Our analysis also revealed aquatic pollutants, which suggests that metabolite profiling might be used for monitoring pollution levels and assessing environmental impact.
Date of AwardDec 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorChristian Voolstra (Supervisor)


  • GC-MS
  • Pocillopora Verrucosa
  • Acropora Hemprichii
  • Fungia granulosa
  • Porites Lutea
  • Symbiodinium

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