The use of cellular diagnostics for identifying sub-lethal stress in reef corals

Ecotoxicology. 2012 Apr;21(3):768-82. doi: 10.1007/s10646-011-0837-4. Epub 2012 Jan 5.


Coral reefs throughout the world are exhibiting documented declines in coral cover and species diversity, which have been linked to anthropogenic stressors including land-based sources of pollution. Reductions in coastal water and substratum quality are affecting coral survivorship, reproduction and recruitment, and hence, the persistence of coral reefs. One major obstacle in effectively addressing these declines is the lack of tools that can identify cause-and-effect relationships between stressors and specific coral reef losses, while a second problem is the inability to measure the efficacy of mitigation efforts in a timely fashion. We examined corals from six coral reefs on Guam, Mariana Islands, which were being affected by different environmental stressors (e.g. PAH's, pesticides, PCB's and sedimentation). Cellular diagnostic analysis differentiated the cellular-physiological condition of these corals. Examination of protein expression provided insight into their homeostatic responses to chemical and physical stressors in exposed corals prior to outright mortality, providing improved opportunities for developing locally-based management responses. This approach adds critically needed tools for addressing the effects of multiple stressors on corals and will allow researchers to move beyond present assessment and monitoring techniques that simply document the loss of coral abundance and diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / drug effects*
  • Anthozoa / metabolism
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Coral Reefs*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Inactivation, Metabolic / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • Population Dynamics
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / classification
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / pharmacokinetics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Xenobiotics / classification
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacokinetics
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Biomarkers
  • Proteins
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Xenobiotics