TitleApoptosis as a post-phagocytic winnowing mechanism in a coral-dinoflagellate mutualism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsDunn, SR, Weis, VM
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

This study was aimed at detecting apoptosis as a post-phagocytic mechanism of symbiont selection during the onset of symbiosis in larvae of the scleractinian coral Fungia scutaria. Larvae were infected with one of three Symbiodinium types: freshly isolated homologous ITS-type C1f from adult F. scutaria, heterologous C31 from adult Montipora capitata, known to be unable to successfully colonize F. scutaria larvae, and type B1 from the symbiotic sea anemone Aiptasia spp. Apoptosis was detected by the activation of caspases, enzymes specific to apoptosis. Caspase activity was measured in situ by cleavage of a specific fluorophore and detection with confocal microscopy. At 6 h post infection, there was a significant increase in caspase activation in gastrodermal cells in C31-infected larvae, compared with larvae infected with C1f or B1 types. Compared with control larvae infected with C31, which had decreased infection rates present by 24 h post infection, when C31-infected larvae were incubated with a broad-scale caspase inhibitor, the per cent of larvae infected with C31 did not significantly decrease over time. This indicates that the reduction in infection success observed in untreated C31-infected larvae can be rescued with inhibition of caspases and apoptosis. This suggests the presence of a post-phagocytic recognition mechanism. Larvae infected with freshly isolated B1 retained infection success over time compared with C31-infected larvae, suggesting that there is host discrimination between heterologous algae. Initiation of this post-phagocytic response may occur more readily with a highly specific heterologous symbiont type such as C31, compared with a generalist heterologous type such as clade B1.

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