Fernandes N, Steinberg P, Rusch D, Kjelleberg S, Thomas T
Community Structure and Functional Gene Profile of Bacteria on Healthy and Diseased Thalli of the Red Seaweed Delisea Pulchra.
PloS one. 2012 Dec 01; 7: e50854.
Disease is increasingly viewed as a major factor in the ecology of marine communities and its impact appears to be increasing with environmental change, such as global warming. The temperate macroalga Delisea pulchra bleaches in Southeast Australia during warm summer periods, a phenomenon which previous studies have indicated is caused by a temperature induced bacterial disease. In order to better understand the ecology of this disease, the bacterial communities associated with threes type of samples was investigated using 16S rRNA gene and environmental shotgun sequencing: 1) unbleached (healthy) D. pulchra 2) bleached parts of D. pulchra and 3) apparently healthy tissue adjacent to bleached regions. Phylogenetic differences between healthy and bleached communities mainly reflected relative changes in the taxa Colwelliaceae, Rhodobacteraceae, Thalassomonas and Parvularcula. Comparative metagenomics showed clear difference in the communities of healthy and diseased D. pulchra as reflected by changes in functions associated with transcriptional regulation, cation/multidrug efflux and non-ribosomal peptide synthesis. Importantly, the phylogenetic and functional composition of apparently healthy tissue adjacent to bleached sections of the thalli indicated that changes in the microbial communities already occur in the absence of visible tissue damage. This shift in unbleached sections might be due to the decrease in furanones, algal metabolites which are antagonists of bacterial quorum sensing. This study reveals the complex shift in the community composition associated with bleaching of Delisea pulchra and together with previous studies is consistent with a model in which elevated temperatures reduce levels of chemical defenses in stressed thalli, leading to colonization or proliferation by opportunistic pathogens or scavengers.