Mussismilia braziliensis White Plague Disease Is Characterized by an Affected Coral Immune System and Dysbiosis

A. W. Silva-Lima, A. M. Froes, G. D. Garcia, L. A.C. Tonon, J. Swings, C. A.N. Cosenza, M. Medina, K. Penn, J. R. Thompson, C. C. Thompson, F. L. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Infectious diseases are one of the major drivers of coral reef decline worldwide. White plague-like disease (WPL) is a widespread disease with a complex etiology that infects several coral species, including the Brazilian endemic species Mussismilia braziliensis. Gene expression profiles of healthy and WPL-affected M. braziliensis were analyzed in winter and summer seasons. The de novo assembly of the M. braziliensis transcriptome from healthy and white plague samples produced a reference transcriptome containing 119,088 transcripts. WPL-diseased samples were characterized by repression of immune system and cellular defense processes. Autophagy and cellular adhesion transcripts were also repressed in WPL samples, suggesting exhaustion of the coral host defenses. Seasonal variation leads to plasticity in transcription with upregulation of intracellular signal transduction, apoptosis regulation, and oocyte development in the summer. Analysis of the active bacterial rRNA indicated that Pantoea bacteria were more abundant in WPL corals, while Tistlia, Fulvivirga, and Gammaproteobacteria Ga0077536 were more abundant in healthy samples. Cyanobacteria proliferation was also observed in WPL, mostly in the winter. These results indicate a scenario of dysbiosis in WPL-affected M. braziliensis, with the loss of potentially symbiotic bacteria and proliferation of opportunistic microbes after the start of the infection process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-806
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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