Carly D. Kenkel, The University of Texas at AustinFollow
Galina Aglyamova, The University of Texas at Austin
Ada Alamaru, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Ranjeet Bhagooli, The University of Mauritius and The Biodiversity and Environment Institute, Reduit, Mauritius
Roxana Capper, The University of Texas at Austin
Ross Cunning, University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Amanda deVillers, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam
Joshua A. Haslun, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi
Laetitia Hédouin, Universite de Perpignan, Perpignan, France
Shashank Keshavmurthy, Biodiversity Research Center Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Kristin Kuehl, Florida International University, Department of Biological SciencesFollow
Huda Mahmoud, Department of Biological Sciences, Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait
Elizabeth S. McGinty, The University of Texas at Arlington, Department of Biology
Phanor H. Montoya-Maya, Oceanographic Research Institute, Marine Parade, Durban, South Africa
Caroline V. Palmer, ARC Centre of Excellence and James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Raffaella Pantile, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Juan A. Sánchez, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
Tom Schils, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam
Rachel N. Silverstein, University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Logan B. Squiers, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Pei-Ciao Tang, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Department of Biology
Tamar L. Goulet, University of Mississippi, Department of Biology
Mikhail V. Matz, The University of Texas at Austin

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Coral reefs are declining worldwide due to increased incidence of climate-induced coral bleaching, which will have widespread biodiversity and economic impacts. A simple method to measure the sub-bleaching level of heat-light stress experienced by corals would greatly inform reef management practices by making it possible to assess the distribution of bleaching risks among individual reef sites. Gene expression analysis based on quantitative PCR (qPCR) can be used as a diagnostic tool to determine coral condition in situ. We evaluated the expression of 13 candidate genes during heat-light stress in a common Caribbean coral Porites astreoides, and observed strong and consistent changes in gene expression in two independent experiments. Furthermore, we found that the apparent return to baseline expression levels during a recovery phase was rapid, despite visible signs of colony bleaching. We show that the response to acute heat-light stress in P. astreoides can be monitored by measuring the difference in expression of only two genes: Hsp16 and actin. We demonstrate that this assay discriminates between corals sampled from two field sites experiencing different temperatures. We also show that the assay is applicable to an Indo-Pacific congener, P. lobata, and therefore could potentially be used to diagnose acute heat-light stress on coral reefs worldwide.


This article was originally published in PLoS ONE 6(10): e26914. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026914.

© 2011 Kenkel et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.