Coral Reefs

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 367–377 | Cite as

Exposure to solar radiation increases damage to both host tissues and algal symbionts of corals during thermal stress

Report

Abstract

Elevated seawater temperatures have long been accepted as the principal stressor causing the loss of symbiotic algae in corals and other invertebrates with algal symbionts (i.e., “bleaching”). A secondary factor associated with coral bleaching is solar irradiance, both its visible (PAR: 400–700 nm) and ultraviolet (UVR: 290–400 nm) portions of the spectrum. Here we examined the synergistic role of solar radiation on thermally induced stress and subsequent bleaching in a common Caribbean coral, Montastraea faveolata. Active fluorescent measurements show that steady-state quantum yields of photosystem II (PSII) fluorescence in the zooxanthellae are markedly depressed when exposed to high solar radiation and elevated temperatures, and the concentration of D1 protein is significantly lower in high light when compared to low light treatments under the same thermal stress. Both photosynthetic pigments and mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) are also depressed after experimental exposure to high solar radiation and thermal stress. Host DNA damage is exacerbated under high light conditions and is correlated with the expression of the cell cycle gene p 53, a cellular gatekeeper that modulates the fate of damaged cells between DNA repair processes and apoptotic pathways. These markers of cellular stress in the host and zooxanthellae have in common their response to the enhanced production of reactive oxygen species during exposure to high irradiances of solar radiation and elevated temperatures. Taking these results and previously published data into consideration, we conclude that thermal stress during exposure to high irradiances of solar radiation, or irradiances higher than the current photoacclimatization state, causes damage to both photochemistry and carbon fixation at the same time in zooxanthellae, while DNA damage, apoptosis, or necrosis are occurring in the host tissues of symbiotic cnidarians.

Keywords

Coral bleaching Thermal stress Solar radiation PSII damage DNA damage Apoptosis Oxidative stress 

Abbreviations

σPSII

Functional absorption cross-section for PSII

Fo, Fm

Minimum and maximum yields of chlorophyll a fluorescence measured after dark acclimation (relative units)

Fv

Variable fluorescence after dark acclimation (=Fm−Fo), dimensionless

Fv/Fm

Maximum quantum yield of photochemistry in PSII measured after dark acclimation, dimensionless

F′, Fm

Steady-state and maximum yields of chlorophyll a fluorescence measured under ambient light (relative units)

ΔF/Fm

Quantum yield of photochemistry in PSII measured at steady state under ambient light

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Center for Marine BiologyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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