Development and application of molecular biomarkers for characterizing Caribbean Yellow Band Disease in Orbicella faveolata.

PMID 26557440


Molecular stress responses associated with coral diseases represent an under-studied area of cnidarian transcriptome investigations. Caribbean Yellow Band Disease (CYBD) is considered a disease of Symbiodinium within the tissues of the coral host Orbicella faveolata. There is a paucity of diagnostic tools to assist in the early detection and characterization of coral diseases. The validity of a diagnostic test is determined by its ability to distinguish host organisms that have the disease from those that do not. The ability to detect and identify disease-affected tissue before visible signs of the disease are evident would then be a useful diagnostic tool for monitoring and managing disease outbreaks. Representational Difference Analysis (RDA) was utilized to isolate differentially expressed genes in O. faveolata exhibiting CYBD. Preliminary screening of RDA products identified a small number of genes of interest (GOI) which included an early growth response factor and ubiquitin ligase from the coral host as well as cytochrome oxidase from the algal symbiont. To further characterize the specificity of response, quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) was utilized to compare the expression profiles of these GOIs within diseased tissues (visible lesions), tissues that precede visible lesions by 2-4 cm (transition area), and tissues from healthy-looking colonies with no signs of disease. Results show there are distinctive differences in the expression profiles of these three GOIs within each tissue examined. Collectively, this small suite of GOIs can provide a molecular "finger print" which is capable of differentiating between infected and uninfected colonies on reefs where CYBD is known to occur.