TitleRole of the Sphingosine Rheostat in the Regulation of Cnidarian-Dinoflagellate Symbioses
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDetournay, O, Weis, VM
JournalBiological Bulletin
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The symbiosis between host cnidarians, such as corals and anemones, and their dinoflagellate symbionts is regulated by largely undescribed mechanisms that stabilize the symbiosis during normal conditions but lead to symbiosis breakdown, or cnidarian bleaching, during stress. Previous transcriptomic studies identified the sphingosine rheostat as a putative symbiosis regulatory pathway. The sphingosine rheostat, which includes the sphingolipids sphingosine (Sph) and sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), is a key homeostatic cell regulatory pathway known to function in cell fate and immunity in animals. This study explores the role of sphingosine rheostat components in the stability of the symbiotic partnership. The anemone Aiptasia pallida, host to the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium sp., was used to test the hypothesis that SIP promotes symbiosis stability whereas Sph increases bleaching induced by heat stress. Anemones pre-incubated in exogenous SIP and FTY720, a synthetic S1P analog, were partially rescued from heatstress-induced bleaching. In addition, they displayed a decrease in caspase activity, a measure of apoptosis, compared to controls. In contrast, when anemones were pre-incubated with Sph, both bleaching and caspase activity increased compared to untreated, heat-stressed controls. These data suggest that the sphingosine rheostat may play a role in the balance between stability and dysfunction in cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbioses.

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