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Discovery of the Jekyll-and-Hyde factors in 'coral bleaching'

Date:
December 7, 2009
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists are reporting the first identification of substances involved in the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation that changes harmless marine bacteria into killers that cause "coral bleaching."

The white areas on this coral are a result of bleaching. Scientists are reporting progress toward understanding how this harmful process occurs.
Credit: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

Scientists are reporting the first identification of substances involved in the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation that changes harmless marine bacteria into killers that cause "coral bleaching."

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Their study appears in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Dan Bearden and colleagues note that bleaching already has destroyed up to 30 percent of the world's coral reefs, and scientists are searching for ways to slow or stop the damage. One known culprit is an ocean-dwelling bacterium, Vibrio coralliilyticus, which chokes off corals' energy supply and kills these shell-clad marine animals. At lower temperatures, the bacteria are harmless to coral. But at warmer temperatures (above 75 degrees Fahrenheit) the bacteria become virulent and can kill coral.

The new study reports identification of three chemicals -- betaine, glutamate, and succinate -- that V. coralliilyticus produces in warmer water and are involved in the transformation. The discovery opens the door to understanding the biology involved in the complex interactions between corals and bacteria and unraveling the mystery of coral bleaching, the scientists indicated.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Boroujerdi et al. NMR-Based Microbial Metabolomics and the Temperature-Dependent Coral Pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus. Environmental Science & Technology, 2009; 43 (20): 7658 DOI: 10.1021/es901675w

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Discovery of the Jekyll-and-Hyde factors in 'coral bleaching'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091202114040.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2009, December 7). Discovery of the Jekyll-and-Hyde factors in 'coral bleaching'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091202114040.htm
American Chemical Society. "Discovery of the Jekyll-and-Hyde factors in 'coral bleaching'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091202114040.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

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