Role of endosymbiotic zooxanthellae and coral mucus in the adhesion of the coral-bleaching pathogen Vibrio shiloi to its host

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2001 May 15;199(1):33-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2001.tb10647.x.


Vibrio shiloi, the causative agent of bleaching the coral Oculina patagonica in the Mediterranean Sea, adheres to its coral host by a beta-D-galactopyranoside-containing receptor on the coral surface. The receptor is present in the coral mucus, since V. shiloi adhered avidly to mucus-coated ELISA plates. Adhesion was inhibited by methyl-beta-D-galactopyranoside. Removal of the mucus from O. patagonica resulted in a delay in adhesion of V. shiloi to the coral, corresponding to regeneration of the mucus. DCMU inhibited the recovery of adhesion of the bacteria to the mucus-depleted corals, indicating that active photosynthesis by the endosymbiotic zooxanthellae was necessary for the synthesis or secretion of the receptor. Further evidence of the role of the zooxanthellae in producing the receptor came from a study of adhesion of V. shiloi to different species of corals. The bacteria failed to adhere to bleached corals and white (azooxanthellate) O. patagonica cave corals, both of which lacked the algae. In addition, V. shiloi adhered to two Mediterranean corals (Madracis and Cladocora) that contained zooxanthellae and did not adhere to two azooxanthellate Mediterranean corals (Phyllangia and Polycyathus). V. shiloi demonstrated positive chemotaxis towards the mucus of O. patagonica. The data demonstrate that endosymbiotic zooxanthellae contribute to the production of coral mucus and that V. shiloi infects only mucus-containing, zooxanthellate corals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion*
  • Chemotaxis
  • Cnidaria / metabolism
  • Cnidaria / microbiology*
  • Eukaryota / physiology*
  • Symbiosis*
  • Vibrio / physiology*