Coral metabolite gradients affect microbial community structures and act as a disease cue

Michael A. Ochsenkühn, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Mourad Harir, Shady A. Amin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Corals are threatened worldwide due to prevalence of disease and bleaching. Recent studies suggest the ability of corals to resist disease is dependent on maintaining healthy microbiomes that span coral tissues and surfaces, the holobiont. Although our understanding of the role endosymbiotic microbes play in coral health has advanced, the role surface-associated microbes and their chemical signatures play in coral health is limited. Using minimally invasive water sampling, we show that the corals Acropora and Platygyra harbor unique bacteria and metabolites at their surface, distinctly different from surrounding seawater. The surface metabolites released by the holobiont create concentration gradients at 0–5 cm away from the coral surface. These molecules are identified as chemo-attractants, antibacterials, and infochemicals, suggesting they may structure coral surface-associated microbes. Further, we detect surface-associated metabolites characteristic of healthy or white syndrome disease infected corals, a finding which may aid in describing effects of diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number184
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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