Hypoxia as a physiological cue and pathological stress for coral larvae

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  • Rachel Alderdice
  • Mathieu Pernice
  • Anny Cárdenas
  • David J. Hughes
  • Peter L. Harrison
  • Nadine Boulotte
  • Katie Chartrand
  • Kuhl, Michael
  • David J. Suggett
  • Christian R. Voolstra

Ocean deoxygenation events are intensifying worldwide and can rapidly drive adult corals into a state of metabolic crisis and bleaching-induced mortality, but whether coral larvae are subject to similar stress remains untested. We experimentally exposed apo-symbiotic coral larvae of Acropora selago to deoxygenation stress with subsequent reoxygenation aligned to their night-day light cycle, and followed their gene expression using RNA-Seq. After 12 h of deoxygenation stress (~2 mg O2/L), coral planulae demonstrated a low expression of HIF-targeted hypoxia response genes concomitant with a significantly high expression of PHD2 (a promoter of HIFα proteasomal degradation), similar to corresponding adult corals. Despite exhibiting a consistent swimming phenotype compared to control samples, the differential gene expression observed in planulae exposed to deoxygenation-reoxygenation suggests a disruption of pathways involved in developmental regulation, mitochondrial activity, lipid metabolism, and O2-sensitive epigenetic regulators. Importantly, we found that treated larvae exhibited a disruption in the expression of conserved HIF-targeted developmental regulators, for example, Homeobox (HOX) genes, corroborating how changes in external oxygen levels can affect animal development. We discuss how the observed deoxygenation responses may be indicative of a possible acclimation response or alternatively may imply negative latent impacts for coral larval fitness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)571-587
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Molecular Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • coral, development, gene expression profiling, hypoxia, RNA-Seq

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