The Coral Symbiomics Lab
Red Sea Research Center
Division of Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering

Publications in 2018

Epigenome-associated phenotypic acclimatization to ocean acidification in a reef-building coral

​Liew, Yi Jin, Didier Zoccola, Yong Li, Eric Tambutté, Alexander A. Venn, Craig T. Michell, Guoxin Cui, et al. "Epigenome-Associated Phenotypic Acclimatization to Ocean Acidification in a Reef-Building Coral." Science Advances 4, no. 6 (2018).
Liew Yi Jin, Zoccola Didier, Li Yong, Tambutté Eric, Venn Alexander A, Michell Craig T, Cui Guoxin, Deutekom Eva S, Kaandorp Jaap A, Voolstra Christian R, Forêt Sylvain, Allemand Denis, Tambutté Sylvie, Aranda Manuel
Epigenome, Ocean acidification, Acclimatization
​There are increasing concerns that the current rate of climate change might outpace the ability of reef-building corals to adapt to future conditions. Work on model systems has shown that environmentally induced alterations in DNA methylation can lead to phenotypic acclimatization. While DNA methylation has been reported in corals and is thought to associate with phenotypic plasticity, potential mechanisms linked to changes in whole-genome methylation have yet to be elucidated. We show that DNA methylation significantly reduces spurious transcription in the coral Stylophora pistillata. Furthermore, we find that DNA methylation also reduces transcriptional noise by fine-tuning the expression of highly expressed genes. Analysis of DNA methylation patterns of corals subjected to long-term pH stress showed widespread changes in pathways regulating cell cycle and body size. Correspondingly, we found significant increases in cell and polyp sizes that resulted in more porous skeletons, supporting the hypothesis that linear extension rates are maintained under conditions of reduced calcification. These findings suggest an epigenetic component in phenotypic acclimatization that provides corals with an additional mechanism to cope with environmental change.