Please select your home edition
Edition
GAC-Pindar-Sailing News 728 - 21.jpg

Give thanks to coral the next time you fight off infection

by ARC centre on 5 Jul 2013
That wonderful natural wonder of the world known as the Great Barrier Reef. John Curnow
Give thanks to the Great Barrier Reef, the next time you successfully fight off a nasty infection. A dramatic discovery by an Australian team of scientists has revealed that the ability of humans to resist bacterial diseases may go as far back in our ancestry as corals.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) have found three genes in Acropora (staghorn) corals which show a very fast, strong immune response to the presence of bacteria – and the same genes also occur in mammals, including people.

'It’s early days, but it certainly looks as if key aspects of our ability to resist bacteria are extremely ancient and may have been pioneered by the ancestor of corals – and then passed down to humans in our evolutionary lineage,' explains team leader Professor David Miller of CoECRS and James Cook University.

'Corals are constantly attacked by bacteria in their natural environment, and so have perfected very efficient defences against them,' he says. 'These defences apparently work well enough to be preserved in mammals like us, and possibly in plants too. Certain animals in between us and coral, like roundworms and flies, seem to have lost these genes, but our line appears to have retained them.'

The genes belong to a family known as the GiMAPs and have been associated with anti-bacterial immunity in mammals, including humans.

The team made its discovery by challenging living colonies of Acropora with certain chemicals commonly found in the coats of bacteria, and studying which genes reacted across virtually its entire genome of 20,000-plus genes.

'We were quite surprised at how rapidly and strongly these three genes in particular reacted to the presence of bacterial proteins,' Prof. Miller says. 'It was spectacular.'

The main goal of the research is to better understand the mechanisms by which corals resist attack by bacteria and viruses – an urgent task in view of a massive upsurge in coral diseases around the world, which researchers attribute to the impact of human activity on the oceans and on coral reefs themselves.

'By better understanding the basis of coral immunity we may first be able to understand what is causing this pandemic of coral diseases and how human activity is connected to it.


'And second, this may lead us to better ways of managing our reefs that reduce the impact of disease, and give corals a better chance of survival during a period of major climatic and environmental change,' he says.

Prof. Miller has also been involved with an international team in a second, equally important discovery – helping for the first time to clarify the molecular process by which corals form their calcium-rich skeletons.

'With the world’s oceans becoming more acidic due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions, the whole basis by which corals and other marine organisms form their skeletons and shells – known as calcification – is under threat.

'Many marine scientists fear that if the oceans become more acidic as we redouble fossil fuel use, many of these lifeforms will not be able to cope – and our coral reefs could literally dissolve before our very eyes,' he explains.

'Understanding how coral forms its skeleton at the molecular level is part of the basic science required to properly understand what is going on in the world’s coral reefs, and to predict the outcome with some certainty. At the moment, while we fear acidification will be damaging for corals, we don’t know how bad – whether it will affect all corals equally, whether it will inflict extensive damage, or will wipe them out completely.'

Prof Miller says that the most important implication of ongoing work which builds on the published study is that, while corals can to some extent cope with ocean acidification on its own, the combination of increasing temperature and acidity are much more damaging. 'This is significant, because climate change will result in just those conditions that are most harmful to skeleton formation and maintenance,' he says.

'Corals have been around for a long time, and over hundreds of millions of years the coral lineage has survived previous periods of ocean acidification. However, modern coral reefs are fragile things, and reefs as we know them may not exist in the later part of this century if we do not deal immediately with global CO2 emissions'.

Details of the research appear in the following scientific papers:
Acute transcriptional response of the coral Acropora millepora to immune challenge: expression of GiMAP/IAN genes links the innate immune responses of corals with those of mammals and plants, by Yvonne Weiss, Sylvain Forêt, David C Hayward, Tracy Ainsworth, Rob King, Eldon E Ball and David J Miller, in BMC Genomics, June 2013. Citation: Weiss et al. BMC Genomics (2013) 14:400.

The skeletal proteome of the coral Acropora millepora: the evolution of calcification by cooption and domain shuffling, by Paula Ramos-Silva, Jaap Kaandorp, Lotte Huisman, Benjamin Marie, Isabelle Zanella-Cléon, Nathalie Guichard, David J. Miller and Frédéric Marin, in Molecular Biology and Evolution, June 2013.

http://www.coralcoe.org.au/

GAC PindarBarz Optics - Melanin LensesKiwi Yachting - Lewmar

Related Articles

Coral Bleaching Again - Call to Action
Last week I attended latest Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan meeting of the Reef Advisory Committee in Brisbane It has become abundantly obvious to CAREFISH that climate change has eventuated and massive scale disruption and or destruction of our environment, particularly the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), is currently being experienced and is escalating. Whilst it is acknowledged that Governments are attending to some aspects and attempting to mitigate effect...
Posted on 22 Mar
Cornish fishing company fined £8,170 for moving vessel
Mark Rowse, who pleaded guilty on behalf of the company, was fined £3,000 by Truro Magistrates Court. Yesterday, Wednesday 15 March, Rowse Fishing Ltd of Newlyn Cornwall was fined a total of £8,170 after being prosecuted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for moving a new build fishing vessel without the appropriate load-line certificate. Mark Rowse, Director of Rowse Fishing Ltd, who pleaded guilty on behalf of the company, was fined £3,000 by Truro Magistrates Court...
Posted on 16 Mar
There is always something to learn…
Did you know that Marlins have a gland near their eye that secrets oil that is thought to make them even more slippery Did you know that broadbill swordfish have a gland near their eye that secrets a special oil that is thought to make them even more slippery through the water? Until about a year ago, no one did! Also, did you know that the Oceanic White Tip Shark has special sensory structures in its head that act like a natural GPS utilising the earth’s geomagnetic field to locate itself in our vast oceans....
Posted on 9 Mar
Barramundi populations at risk from acid oceans
Wild barramundi populations are likely to be at risk under ocean acidification, a new University of Adelaide study found Wild barramundi populations are likely to be at risk under ocean acidification, a new University of Adelaide study has found. Published in the journal Oecologia, the study is the first to show that even freshwater fish which only spend a small portion of their lifecycle in the ocean are likely to be seriously affected under the higher CO2 levels
Posted on 1 Jan
The Deepwater Horizon aftermath
Researchers analyze 125 compounds from oil spilled in Gulf of Mexico to determine their longevity at different levels. Researchers analyze 125 compounds from oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico to determine their longevity at different contamination levels. The oil discharged into the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) rig in 2010 contaminated more than 1,000 square miles of seafloor.
Posted on 1 Jan
Magnetic force pulls baby reef fish back home
Baby reef fish have an internal magnetic ‘compass’ that directs them home at night, world-first research has revealed. Baby reef fish have an internal magnetic ‘compass’ that directs them home at night, world-first research has revealed. Professor Mike Kingsford from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University collaborated with colleagues in Germany to find out how tiny Cardinal fish, the size of a fingernail, are able to swim towards home when there’s no sun or stars to guide them
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
DAERA designates four new MCZs in the Northern Ireland Inshore Region
Following a public consultation, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division has designated four new Marine Conservation Zones The new MCZs are intended to protect clams in Belfast Lough, the habitat of rare black guillemots on Rathlin Island, one of Ireland’s largest seagrass meadows located off the coast of Waterfoot in Co Antrim, and a community of sea pens – a type of soft coral – in Carlingford Lough.
Posted on 14 Dec 2016
Great Barrier Reef managers and industry prepare for summer
Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop to assess climate-related risks to the Great Barrier Reef over the coming months. Current predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are for a summer of average sea temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef.
Posted on 7 Dec 2016
Introducing the Airbnb of the mooring and marina world
Have you ever struggled to find an available mooring, or do you have a mooring that is sitting vacant? Have you ever struggled to find an available mooring, or do you have a mooring that is sitting vacant? makefastmooring.com is aiming to solve this problem by connecting boat owners with those with vacant moorings or berths. With a growing number of moorings and marinas in New Zealand, Australia and around the world, makefastmooring.com allows people to find, rent and share moorings and berths.
Posted on 7 Dec 2016
Radio spectrum changes have been put into place in New Zealand
New Zealand, along with a number of other countries, has been required to change some maritime VHF repeater channels New Zealand, along with a number of other countries, has been required to change some maritime VHF repeater channels to make space for newly allocated international services for ship tracking and data services. On the October 1st, New Zealand moved a few private VHF repeater services, most Coastguard VHF repeater services, and all NowCasting weather services. An updated radio handbook and freq
Posted on 2 Nov 2016