How corals adapt to day and night

Sep 12, 2008
Skeletal calice of the symbiotic coral, Stylophora pistillata. Credit: Didier Zoccola, Centre Scientifique de Monaco

Researchers have uncovered a gene in corals that responds to day/night cycles, which provides some tantalizing clues into how symbiotic corals work together with their plankton partners.

Corals are fascinating animals that form the largest biological constructions in the world, sprawling coral reefs that cover less than 0.2 % of the seafloor yet provide habitats for more than 30% of marine life. In shallow waters that don't have abundant food, corals have developed a close relationship with small photosynthetic critters called dinoflagellates.

The dinoflagellates use sunlight to produce energy for the coral, which in turn use that energy to construct mineralized skeletons for protection. The mineral production, known as coral calcification, is closely tied with the day/night cycle, though the molecular mechanism behind this synchronization is mysterious.

Aurelie Moya and colleagues have now characterized the first coral gene that responds to the light cycle; this gene, called STPCA, makes an enzyme that converts carbon dioxide to bicarbonate (baking soda) and is twice as active at night compared to daytime. The researchers found that the enzyme concentrates in the watery layer right under the calcified skeleton, which combined with studies showing that STPCA inhibitors lower calcification rates, confirms a direct role for STPCA in this process.

Moya and colleagues propose that STPCA becomes more active at night to cope with acid buildup. The calcification process requires many hydrogen atoms, which during the day can be removed by photosynthesis; at night, however, hydrogen accumulates which increases the acidity of the coral, and therefore STPCA creates extra bicarbonate as a buffer to prevent acid damage.

Citation: "Carbonic Anhydrase in the Scleractinian Coral Stylophora pistillata" by Aurélie Moya, Sylvie Tambutté, Anthony Bertucci, Eric Tambutté, Séverine Lotto, Daniela Vullo, Claudiu T. Supuran, Denis Allemand, and Didier Zoccola

Article URL: www.jbc.org/cgi/content/full/283/37/25475

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Explore further: Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fluctuation X-ray scattering

18 minutes ago

In biology, materials science and the energy sciences, structural information provides important insights into the understanding of matter. The link between a structure and its properties can suggest new ...

Twitter launches Meerkat-killer app Periscope

21 minutes ago

Twitter on Thursday launched its streaming video application Periscope, a move that could dampen enthusiasm for the rising online star Meerkat, which offers a similar service.

Applications of optical fibre for sensors

55 minutes ago

Mikel Bravo-Acha's PhD thesis has focused on the applications of optical fibre as a sensor. In the course of his research, conducted at the NUP/UPNA-Public University of Navarre, he monitored a sensor fitted to optical fibre ...

Twitter chief vows to help Indonesia fight disasters

56 minutes ago

Twitter chief Dick Costolo said Thursday the microblogging site planned to work with Indonesian authorities to warn people about natural disasters that regularly hit the archipelago, from earthquakes to volcanic ...

Recommended for you

Dairy farms asked to consider breeding no-horn cows

10 hours ago

Food manufacturers and restaurants are taking the dairy industry by the horns on an animal welfare issue that's long bothered activists but is little known to consumers: the painful removal of budding horn ...

Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

Mar 27, 2015

EU member states are divided on how to stop the spread of a disease affecting olive trees in Italy that could result in around a million being cut down, officials said Friday.

China starts relocating endangered porpoises: Xinhua

Mar 27, 2015

Chinese authorities on Friday began relocating the country's rare finless porpoise population in a bid to revive a species threatened by pollution, overfishing and heavy traffic in their Yangtze River habitat, ...

A long-standing mystery in membrane traffic solved

Mar 27, 2015

In 2013, James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular machineries for vesicle trafficking, a major transport ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.