The Journal of experimental biology

Warm preconditioning protects against acute heat-induced respiratory dysfunction and delays bleaching in a symbiotic sea anemone.

PMID 27980125


Preconditioning to non-stressful warming can protect some symbiotic cnidarians against the high temperature-induced collapse of their mutualistic endosymbiosis with photosynthetic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium spp.), a process known as bleaching. Here, we sought to determine whether such preconditioning is underpinned by differential regulation of aerobic respiration. We quantified in vivo metabolism and mitochondrial respiratory enzyme activity in the naturally symbiotic sea anemone Exaiptasia pallida preconditioned to 30°C for >7 weeks as well as anemones kept at 26°C. Preconditioning resulted in increased Symbiodinium photosynthetic activity and holobiont (host+symbiont) respiration rates. Biomass-normalised activities of host respiratory enzymes [citrate synthase and the mitochondrial electron transport chain (mETC) complexes I and IV] were higher in preconditioned animals, suggesting that increased holobiont respiration may have been due to host mitochondrial biogenesis and/or enlargement. Subsequent acute heating of preconditioned and 'thermally naive' animals to 33°C induced dramatic increases in host mETC complex I and Symbiodinium mETC complex II activities only in thermally naive E. pallida These changes were not reflected in the activities of other respiratory enzymes. Furthermore, bleaching in preconditioned E. pallida (defined as the significant loss of symbionts) was delayed by several days relative to the thermally naive group. These findings suggest that changes to mitochondrial biogenesis and/or function in symbiotic cnidarians during warm preconditioning might play a protective role during periods of exposure to stressful heating.

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Decylubiquinone, ≥97% (HPLC)