Local confinement of disease-related microbiome facilitates recovery of gorgonian sea fans from necrotic-patch disease


Microbiome disruptions triggering disease outbreaks are increasingly threatening corals worldwide. In the Tropical Eastern Pacific, a necrotic-patch disease affecting gorgonian corals (sea fans, Pacifigorgia spp.) has been observed in recent years. However, the composition of the microbiome and its disease-related disruptions remain unknown in these gorgonian corals. Therefore, we analysed 16S rRNA gene amplicons from tissues of healthy colonies (n=19) and from symptomatic-asymptomatic tissues of diseased colonies (n=19) of Pacifigorgia cairnsi (Gorgoniidae: Octocorallia) in order to test for disease-related changes in the bacterial microbiome. We found that potential endosymbionts (mostly Endozoicomonas spp.) dominate the core microbiome in healthy colonies. Moreover, healthy tissues differed in community composition and functional profile from those of the symptomatic tissues but did not show differences to asymptomatic tissues of the diseased colonies. A more diverse set of bacteria was observed in symptomatic tissues, together with the decline in abundance of the potential endosymbionts from the healthy core microbiome. Furthermore, according to a comparative taxonomy-based functional profiling, these symptomatic tissues were characterized by the increase in heterotrophic, ammonia oxidizer and dehalogenating bacteria and by the depletion of nitrite and sulphate reducers. Overall, our results suggest that the bacterial microbiome associated with the disease behaves opportunistically and is likely in a state of microbial dysbiosis. We also conclude that the confinement of the disease-related consortium to symptomatic tissues may facilitate colony recovery.




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Scientific Reports 8(1):14636