Genomic and microarray approaches to coral reef conservation biology
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New technologies based on DNA microarrays and comparative genomics hold great promise for providing the background biological information necessary for effective coral reef conservation and management. Microarray analysis has been used in a wide range of applications across the biological sciences, most frequently to examine simultaneous changes in the expression of large numbers of genes in response to experimental manipulation or environmental variation. Other applications of microarray methods include the assessment of divergence in gene sequences between species and the identification of fast-evolving genes. Arrays are presently available for only a limited range of species, but with appropriate controls they can be used for related species, thus avoiding the considerable costs associated with development of a system de novo. Arrays are in use or preparation to study stress responses, early development, and symbiosis in Acropora and Montastraea. Ongoing projects on several corals are making available large numbers of expressed gene sequences, enabling the identification of candidate genes for studies on gamete specificity, allorecognition and symbiont interactions. Over the next few years, microarray and comparative genomic approaches are likely to assume increasingly important and widespread use to study many aspects of the biology of coral reef organisms. Application of these genomic approaches to enhance our understanding of genetic and physiological correlates during stress, environmental disturbance and disease bears direct relevance to the conservation of coral reef ecosystems.