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The effect of bleaching on the terpene chemistry of Plexaurella fusifera: evidence that zooxanthellae are not responsible for sesquiterpene production
Frenz-Ross, J.L.; Enticknap, J.J.; Kerr, R.G. (2008). The effect of bleaching on the terpene chemistry of Plexaurella fusifera: evidence that zooxanthellae are not responsible for sesquiterpene production. Mar. Biotechnol. 10(5): 572-578. dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10126-008-9095-8
In: Marine Biotechnology. Springer-Verlag: New York. ISSN 1436-2228, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Bleaching; Coral; Zooxanthellae; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Frenz-Ross, J.L.
  • Enticknap, J.J.
  • Kerr, R.G.

Abstract
    The close association between marine invertebrates, zooxanthellae, and numerous bacteria gives rise to the question of the identity of the actual producer of secondary metabolites. In fall of 2005, a widespread bleaching event occurred throughout the Caribbean Sea in which some colonies of the gorgonian coral Plexaurella fusifera bleached. This study investigated whether zooxanthellae play a key role in the biosynthesis of secondary metabolite terpenes from P. fusifera. The extent of bleaching was examined by chlorophyll A analysis and also by zooxanthellae isolation and cell counting. The bleached and unbleached colonies were found to contain similar concentrations of eremophilene as the major terpene, and both exhibited similar biosynthetic capability as evaluated by the transformation of [C1-3 H]-farnesyl diphosphate to the sesquiterpenes. Differences in bacterial communities between the bleached and unbleached colonies were analyzed using molecular techniques, and preliminary indications are that unbleached and bleached corals are dominated by low G + C firmicutes and gammaproteobacteria, respectively. It therefore appears that terpene biosynthesis can proceed independently of the zooxanthellae in P. fusifera, suggesting that the coral or a bacterium is the biosynthetic source.

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