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Environ Microbiol. 2010 Jan;12(1):28-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02027.x. Epub 2009 Aug 18.

Antagonistic interactions among coral-associated bacteria.

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Marine Biology Research Division, 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0202, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Reef-building corals are comprised of close associations between the coral animal, symbiotic zooxanthellae, and a diversity of associated microbes (including Bacteria, Archaea and Fungi). Together, these comprise the coral holobiont - a paradigm that emphasizes the potential contributions of each component to the overall function and health of the coral. Little is known about the ecology of the coral-associated microbial community and its hypothesized role in coral health. We explored bacteria-bacteria antagonism among 67 bacterial isolates from the scleractinian coral Montastrea annularis at two temperatures using Burkholder agar diffusion assays. A majority of isolates exhibited inhibitory activity (69.6% of isolates at 25 degrees C, 52.2% at 31 degrees C), with members of the gamma-proteobacteria (Vibrionales and Alteromonadales) being especially antagonistic. Elevated temperatures generally reduced levels of antagonism, although the effects were complex. Several potential pathogens were observed in the microbial community of apparently healthy corals, and 11.6% of isolates were able to inhibit the growth of the coral pathogen Vibrio shiloi at 25 degrees C. Overall, this study demonstrates that antagonism could be a structuring force in coral-associated microbial communities and may contribute to pathogenesis as well as disease resistance.

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