Caribbean - Elkhorn Coral Actively Fighting off Diseases on Reef
Findings showed coral has core immune response regardless of disease type
As the world enters a next wave of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are aware now more than ever of the importance of a healthy immune system to protect ourselves from disease. This is not only true for humans but corals too, which are in an ongoing battle to ward off deadly diseases spreading on a reef.
A new study led by researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science looked at the immune system of elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), an important reef-building coral in the Caribbean, to better understand its response to diseases such as white band disease and rapid tissue loss.
In the experiment, healthy corals were grafted to diseased ones. After one week, the corals were analyzed to study the coral's overall gene expression in response to disease, if they exhibited an immune response, and whether there were different signatures of gene expression for corals that didn't show signs of disease transmission. The researchers found that A. palmata has a core immune response to disease regardless of the type of disease, indicating that this particular coral species mounts an immune response to disease exposure despite differences in the disease type and virulence.