Revealing Holobiont Structure and Function of Three Red Sea Deep-Sea Corals

  • Lauren Yum

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Deep-sea corals have long been regarded as cold-water coral; however a reevaluation of their habitat limitations has been suggested after the discovery of deep-sea coral in the Red Sea where temperatures exceed 20˚C. To gain further insight into the biology of deep-sea corals at these temperatures, the work in this PhD employed a holotranscriptomic approach, looking at coral animal host and bacterial symbiont gene expression in Dendrophyllia sp., Eguchipsammia fistula, and Rhizotrochus sp. sampled from the deep Red Sea. Bacterial community composition was analyzed via amplicon-based 16S surveys and cultured bacterial strains were subjected to bioprospecting in order to gauge the pharmaceutical potential of coralassociated microbes. Coral host transcriptome data suggest that coral can employ mitochondrial hypometabolism, anaerobic glycolysis, and surface cilia to enhance mass transport rates to manage the low oxygen and highly oligotrophic Red Sea waters. In the microbial community associated with these corals, ribokinases and retron-type reverse transcriptases are abundantly expressed. In its first application to deep-sea coral associated microbial communities, 16S-based next-generation sequencing found that a single operational taxonomic unit can comprise the majority of sequence reads and that a large number of low abundance populations are present, which cannot be visualized with first generation sequencing. Bioactivity testing of selected bacterial isolates was surveyed over 100 cytological parameters with high content screening, covering several major organelles and key proteins involved in a variety of signaling cascades. Some of these cytological profiles were similar to those of several reference pharmacologically active compounds, which suggest that the bacteria isolates produce compounds with similar mechanisms of action as the reference compounds. The sum of this work offers several mechanisms by which Red Sea deep-sea corals cope with environmental conditions in which no other deep-sea corals have yet to be reported. These deep-sea coral are associated with rich microbial communities, which produce molecules that induce bioactivity. The aggregate of this work provides direction for future research of Red Sea deep-sea coral and highlights the potential pharmacological benefit of conserving these species and their unique ecosystem.
Date of AwardDec 2014
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorChristian Voolstra (Supervisor)


  • Deep-Sea Coral
  • Red Sea
  • Transcriptome
  • bacterial community
  • Metatranscriptome
  • Eguchipsammia Fistula

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