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Early Transcriptional Responses during Heat Stress in the Coral Acropora hyacinthus

figure from paper
Jun 6 2017

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Nikki Traylor-Knowles, Noah H. Rose, Elizabeth A. Sheets, and Stephen R. Palumbi

The Biological Bulletin May 31, 2017   https://doi.org/10.1086/692717

Abstract

Corals respond to heat pulses that cause bleaching with massive transcriptional change, but the immediate responses to stress that lead up to these shifts have never been detailed. Understanding these early signals could be important for identifying the regulatory mechanisms responsible for bleaching and how these mechanisms vary between more and less resilient corals. Using RNA sequencing (RNAseq) and sampling every 30 minutes during a short-term heat shock, we found that components of the transcriptome were significantly upregulated within 90 min and after a temperature increase of +2 °C. The developmental transcription factor, Krüppel-like factor 7, was highly expressed within 60 min, and stress-related transcription factors such as Elk-3 were highly expressed starting at 240 min. The sets of genes enriched for early transcriptional response to heat stress included heat shock proteins, small GTPases, and proteasome genes. Retrovirus-related Pol polyproteins from transposons were significantly expressed throughout the whole experiment. Lastly, we propose a model for early transcriptional regulation of protein degradation and cell adhesion response that may ultimately lead to the bleaching and stress response.