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Variation in measures of immunocompetence of sea fan coral, Gorgonia ventalina, in the Florida Keys
Couch, C.S.; Mydlarz, L.D.; Harvell, C.D.; Douglas, N.L. (2008). Variation in measures of immunocompetence of sea fan coral, Gorgonia ventalina, in the Florida Keys. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 155: 281-292. hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-008-1024-x
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Couch, C.S.
  • Mydlarz, L.D.
  • Harvell, C.D.
  • Douglas, N.L.

Abstract
    Aspergillosis is a widespread disease that has impacted the demography of the Caribbean sea fan coral, Gorgonia ventalina. The innate coral immune defenses can be measured as constitutive levels of immune proteins (peroxidase [POX], prophenoloxidase [PPO], lysozyme-like activity [LYS], exochitinase [EXOC]), antioxidant (superoxide dismutase [SOD]), and antimicrobial (antibacterial [AB] and antifungal [AF]) activity. Therefore, variations in these parameters across a geographic region could provide clues to the role of environment in disease. This study examined healthy sea fans collected in July 2005 from six offshore sites in the Florida Keys lying between 24.569°N and 25.220°N, a distance of ~145 km. Contrary to expectations, small (<15 cm) colonies did not differ significantly from large colonies (>15 cm) in the protein-based levels of activity in any of the measured parameters. However, there were significant differences in many of the parameters among sites, and Molasses Reef and Looe Key Reef were the most different in POX, PPO, SOD, and AF activity. This suggests that there are potential site-specific environmental factors that shape the immune physiology of colonies. Several proxies of environmental stress were also regressed against levels of the immune parameters. The proxies included 10 year averages of benthic community composition, 5 year averages of water quality, and historic aspergillosis disease prevalence and severity. Generality about environmental drivers was limited by assaying only six sites, but several patterns did emerge. SOD, EXOC, and AF activity were all correlated with percent bare substrate cover, suggesting that certain immune components may be activated in low coral environments. LYS and EXOC activity were positively correlated with dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), one proxy of water quality. There were no relationships between any of the measured immune parameters and previous disease prevalence and severity. This study is a first step in evaluating levels of within- and between-site variation in coral immunity and investigating possible environmental drivers.

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