Bacterial Coral Pathogens of the Genus Vibrio

Ushijima, Blake
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2016]
Coral reefs play an important role in numerous marine ecosystems, however, their survival is threatened by outbreaks of disease. On their own, reefs have the ability to regenerate after destructive events like natural disasters; however recent threats have pushed coral reefs past the point of recovery and many reefs are now under threat of disappearing forever. Outbreaks of diseases specific to corals have already decimated the reefs of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. In addition, the baseline levels of disease are increasing, as well as the expansion of disease outbreaks into new regions and the broadening of coral species that are affected. Unfortunately, not all of the characterized diseases have a pathogen positively identified and many of the mechanisms of disease for the known pathogens have yet to be determined. This piece of work describes the isolation, identification, and characterization of three virulent Vibrio strains that infect and cause tissue lysis in Hawaiian corals and species at Palmyra Atoll. First, Vibrio oswensii strain OCN002 causes chronic Montipora white syndrome (cMWS) among the Hawaiian Rice coral (Montipora capitata), a major reef building species, in Kāne‘ohe Bay, Hawai‘i. Second, Vibrio coralliilyticus strain OCN008 causes a comparably faster-spreading disease called acute Montipra white syndrome (aMWS). Third, V. coralliilyticus strain OCN014 is a cause of Acropora white syndrome among the table coral (Acopora cytherea) at Palmyra Atoll. In addition to characterizing infection, common virulence factors between the two V. coralliilyticus were investigated and a direct link between rising global sea surface temperatures and increased virulence of a coral pathogen was established. This work also describes the identification of a novel virulence mechanism utilized by strain OCN008, which may represent the evolution of this pathogenic species in response to the protective properties conferred to coral by the microorganisms normally associated with it.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
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