Molecular assessment of the effect of light and heterotrophy in the scleractinian coral Stylophora Pistillata

Oren Levy, Sarit Karako-Lampert, Hiba Waldman Ben-Asher, Didier Zoccola, Gilles Pagès, Christine Ferrier-Pagès

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Corals acquire nutrients via the transfer of photosynthates by their endosymbionts (autotrophy), or via zooplankton predation by the animal (heterotrophy). During stress events, corals lose their endosymbionts, and undergo starvation, unless they increase their heterotrophic capacities. Molecular mechanisms by which heterotrophy sustains metabolism in stressed corals remain elusive. Here for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, we identified specific genes expressed in heterotrophically fed and unfed colonies of the scleractinian coral Stylophora pistillata, maintained under normal and lightstress conditions. Physiological parameters and gene expression profiling demonstrated that fed corals better resisted stress than unfed ones by exhibiting less oxidative damage and protein degradation. Processes affected in lightstressed unfed corals (HLU), were related to energy and metabolite supply, carbohydrate biosynthesis, ion and nutrient transport, oxidative stress, Ca2+ homeostasis, metabolism and calcification (carbonic anhydrases, calciumtransporting ATPase, bone morphogenetic proteins). Two genes (cp2u1 and cp1a2), which belong to the cytochrome P450 superfamily, were also upregulated 249 and 10 times, respectively, in HLU corals. In contrast, few of these processes were affected in light-stressed fed corals (HLF) because feeding supplied antioxidants and energetic molecules, which help repair oxidative damage. Altogether, these results show that heterotrophy helps prevent the cascade of metabolic problems downstream of oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20153025
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1829
StatePublished - 27 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Bleaching
  • Coral feeding
  • Gene expression
  • Heterotrophy
  • Microarray
  • Oxidative stress


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