Proline-Rich Peptide from the Coral Pathogen Vibrio shiloi That Inhibits Photosynthesis of Zooxanthellae

Ehud Banin, Sanjay K. Khare, Fred Naider, Eugene Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


The coral-bleaching bacterium Vibrio shiloi biosynthesizes and secretes an extracellular peptide, referred to as toxin P, which inhibits photosynthesis of coral symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae). Toxin P was produced during the stationary phase when the bacterium was grown on peptone or Casamino Acids media at 29°C. Glycerol inhibited the production of toxin P. Toxin P was purified to homogeneity, yielding the following 12-residue peptide: PYPVYAPPPVVP (molecular weight, 1,295.54). The structure of toxin P was confirmed by chemical synthesis. In the presence of 12.5 mM NH4Cl, pure natural or synthetic toxin P (10 μM) caused a 64% decrease in the photosynthetic quantum yield of zooxanthellae within 5 min. The inhibition was proportional to the toxin P concentration. Toxin P bound avidly to zooxanthellae, such that subsequent addition of NH4Cl resulted in rapid inhibition of photosynthesis. When zooxanthellae were incubated in the presence of NH4Cl and toxin P, there was a rapid decrease in the pH (pH 7.8 to 7.2) of the bulk liquid, suggesting that toxin P facilitates transport of NH3 into the cell. It is known that uptake of NH3 into cells can destroy the pH gradient and block photosynthesis. This mode of action of toxin P can help explain the mechanism of coral bleaching by V. shiloi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1536-1541
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2001
Externally publishedYes


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