The dynamics of microbial partnerships in the coral Isopora palifera

ISME J. 2011 Apr;5(4):728-40. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.151. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


Both bacteria and algal symbionts (genus Symbiodinium), the two major microbial partners in the coral holobiont, respond to fluctuations in the environment, according to current reports; however, little evidence yet indicates that both populations have any direct interaction with each other in seasonal fluctuation. In this study, we present field observations of a compositional change in bacteria and Symbiodinium in the coral Isopora palifera in three separate coral colonies following monthly sampling from February to November in 2008. Using massively parallel pyrosequencing, over 200,000 bacterial V6 sequences were classified to build the bacterial community profile; in addition, the relative composition and quantity of Symbiodinium clades C and D were determined by real-time PCR. The results showed that coral-associated bacterial and Symbiodinium communities were highly dynamic and dissimilar among the tagged coral colonies, suggesting that the effect of host specificity was insignificant. The coral-associated bacterial community was more diverse (Shannon index up to 6.71) than previous estimates in other corals and showed rapid seasonal changes. The population ratios between clade C and D groups of Symbiodinium varied in the tagged coral colonies through the different seasons; clade D dominated in most of the samples. Although significant association between bacteria and symbiont was not detected, this study presents a more detailed picture of changes in these two major microbial associates of the coral at the same time, using the latest molecular approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biodiversity
  • Dinoflagellida / classification*
  • Dinoflagellida / genetics
  • Dinoflagellida / isolation & purification
  • Host Specificity
  • Seasons
  • Symbiosis