Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Physiol., 25 July 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00180

Immune response of the Caribbean sea fan, Gorgonia ventalina, exposed to an Aplanochytrium parasite as revealed by transcriptome sequencing

  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
  • 2School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Coral reef communities are undergoing marked declines due to a variety of stressors including disease. The sea fan coral, Gorgonia ventalina, is a tractable study system to investigate mechanisms of immunity to a naturally occurring pathogen. Functional studies in Gorgonia ventalina immunity indicate that several key pathways and cellular components are involved in response to natural microbial invaders, although to date the functional and regulatory pathways remain largely un-described. This study used short-read sequencing (Illumina GAIIx) to identify genes involved in the response of G. ventalina to a naturally occurring Aplanochytrium spp. parasite. De novo assembly of the G. ventalina transcriptome yielded 90,230 contigs of which 40,142 were annotated. RNA-Seq analysis revealed 210 differentially expressed genes in sea fans exposed to the Aplanochytrium parasite. Differentially expressed genes involved in immunity include pattern recognition molecules, anti-microbial peptides, and genes involved in wound repair and reactive oxygen species formation. Gene enrichment analysis indicated eight biological processes were enriched representing 36 genes, largely involved with protein translation and energy production. This is the first report using high-throughput sequencing to characterize the host response of a coral to a natural pathogen. Furthermore, we have generated the first transcriptome for a soft (octocoral or non-scleractinian) coral species. Expression analysis revealed genes important in invertebrate innate immune pathways, as well as those whose role is previously un-described in cnidarians. This resource will be valuable in characterizing G. ventalina immune response to infection and co-infection of pathogens in the context of environmental change.

Keywords: Gorgonia ventalina, sea fan, transcriptome, RNA-Seq, soft coral, immune response

Citation: Burge CA, Mouchka ME, Harvell CD and Roberts S (2013) Immune response of the Caribbean sea fan, Gorgonia ventalina, exposed to an Aplanochytrium parasite as revealed by transcriptome sequencing. Front. Physiol. 4:180. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00180

Received: 19 April 2013; Accepted: 24 June 2013;
Published online: 25 July 2013.

Edited by:

Sassan Asgari, The University of Queensland, Australia

Reviewed by:

David A. Raftos, Macquarie University, Australia
Sandie M. Degnan, The University of Queensland, Australia

Copyright © 2013 Burge, Mouchka, Harvell and Roberts. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Colleen A. Burge, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, E343 Corson Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA e-mail: cab433@cornell.edu

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