The cell specificity of gene expression in the response to heat stress in corals

Nikki Traylor-Knowles, Noah H. Rose, Stephen R. Palumbi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Previous transcriptional studies in heat-stressed corals have shown that many genes are responsive to generalized heat stress whereas the expression patterns of specific gene networks after heat stress show strong correlations with variation in bleaching outcomes. However, where these specific genes are expressed is unknown. In this study, we employed in situ hybridization to identify patterns of spatial gene expression of genes previously predicted to be involved in general stress response and bleaching. We found that tumor necrosis factor receptors (TNFRs), known to be strong responders to heat stress, were not expressed in gastrodermal symbiont-containing cells but were widely expressed in specific cells of the epidermal layer. The transcription factors AP-1 and FosB, implicated as early signals of heat stress, were widely expressed throughout the oral gastrodermis and epidermis. By contrast, a G protein-coupled receptor gene (GPCR) and a fructose bisphosphate aldolase C gene (aldolase), previously implicated in bleaching, were expressed in symbiont-containing gastrodermal cells and in the epidermal tissue. Finally, chordin-like/kielin (chordin-like), a gene highly correlated to bleaching, was expressed solely in the oral gastrodermis. From this study, we confirm that heat-responsive genes occur widely in coral tissues outside of symbiont-containing cells. Joint information about expression patterns in response to heat and cell specificity will allow greater dissection of the regulatory pathways and specific cell reactions that lead to coral bleaching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1837-1845
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2017


  • Bleaching
  • Cnidarians
  • Cnidocytes
  • Coral reef
  • Heat stress
  • Tumor necrosis factor receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The cell specificity of gene expression in the response to heat stress in corals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this