Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Laurie Richardson

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

John Makemson

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Lidia Kos

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kalai Mathee

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Exaiptasia pallida, coral, cnidarian, immunology, innate immunity, marine biology

Date of Defense



Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet due partially to the habitat structure provided by corals. Corals are long lived organisms that can live for hundreds of years and as a result growth of many species is very slow. As a result of this, recovery of corals from disease outbreaks is very slow and difficult and therefore the ecosystem is deteriorating rapidly. Due to this increase in disease and its detrimental effect on coral reefs, it has become imperative to study how corals respond to disease outbreaks. The response of the coral to pathogens is believed to be controlled by the innate immune system. However, the immune pathways and components of these pathways used by cnidarians to combat pathogens are still rudimentary. This work showed that C3 and heat shock protein 70 are components of the coral immune system that positively respond to disease occurrence. As disease out breaks become more frequent, the question has arisen as to whether cnidarians have homologs to of the adaptive immune system that allow them to respond more rapidly to subsequent encounters with the same bacterium. In the cnidarian model system Exaiptasia pallida, immune priming occurs up to one month after the initial sub lethal exposure to the pathogen. This transient form of priming could be the result of host energy allocation in place of establishing long term immune priming which could be too energetically costly. Cnidarians may only activate priming during summer months, when ocean temperatures and bacterial load are high. Specificity of immune priming in E. pallida requires further investigation with more bacterial pathogens. In this dissertation, one bacterial strain shows specificity while the other does not. Furthermore, the priming response involves many pathways which include pathogen recognition, inflammation, and activation of NF-κB. The discovery of immune priming in a sea anemone shows that this phenomenon evolved earlier in the tree of life than previously thought. Additionally, identification of priming in E. pallida is suggestive of its presence in corals which would allow for potential vaccinations of vulnerable corals.





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