Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New coral research exposes genomic underpinnings of adaptation

08.11.2016

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have observed for the first time that separate populations of the same species -- in this case, coral -- can diverge in their capacity to regulate genes when adapting to their local environment. The research, published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution, reveals a new way for populations to adapt that may help predict how they will fare under climate change.

The new research was based on populations of mustard hill coral, Porites astreoides, living around the Lower Florida Keys. Corals from close to shore are adapted to a more variable environment because there is greater fluctuation in temperature and water quality: imagine them as the more cosmopolitan coral, adapted to handling occasional stressful events that the offshore coral are spared.


Transplanted mustard hill corals growing on blocks around the Lower Florida Keys.

Credit: Carly Kenkel

When researchers swapped corals from a close-to-shore area with a population of the same species from offshore waters, they found that the inshore-reef corals made bigger changes in their gene activity than the corals collected from an offshore reef. This enabled the inshore corals to adapt better to their new environment.

"It is exciting that populations so close together -- these reefs are less than 5 miles apart -- can be so different," says corresponding author Carly Kenkel, currently affiliated with the Australian Institute of Marine Science. "We've discovered another way that corals can enhance their temperature tolerance, which may be important in determining their response to climate change."

Differences in gene regulation -- the body's ability to make specific genes more or less active -- can be inherited and are pivotal for adapting to environmental change. It was already known that separate populations often develop differences in average levels of gene activity, but now scientists have found that populations can also diverge in their ability to switch genes on and off.

"We show that one population has adapted to its more variable environment by developing an enhanced ability to regulate gene activity," says Mikhail Matz, co-author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Researchers swapped 15 genetically distinct coral colonies from inshore with 15 colonies found offshore to see whether the corals would regulate their genes to match the pattern observed in the local population. After a year, the transplanted populations did show differences: Formerly inshore corals transplanted offshore changed their gene activity dramatically to closely resemble the locals, whereas offshore corals transplanted inshore were able to go only halfway toward the local gene activity levels. In short, corals that originated from the more variable, close to shore environment were more flexible in their gene regulation.

The lack of flexibility took its toll on the offshore corals, which did not fare well at the inshore reef and experienced stress-induced bleaching. Their higher bleaching levels were linked to the diminished ability to dynamically regulate activity of stress-related genes, confirming that flexibility of gene regulation was an important component of adaptation to the inshore environment.

"We saw different capacity for gene expression plasticity between coral populations because we looked at the behavior of all genes taken together instead of focusing on individual genes," says Kenkel. "If we hadn't, we would have missed the reef for the coral, so to speak."

###

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology.

Media Contact

Kristin Philips
kristin.phillips@austin.utexas.edu
512-232-0654

 @UTAustin

http://www.utexas.edu 

Kristin Philips | EurekAlert!

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>