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Coral holobiont adaptation to climate change

Corals live in a complex, multipartite symbiosis with diverse microbes across kingdoms, some of which are implicated in vital functions, such as those related to resilience against climate change. However, knowledge gaps and technical challenges limit our understanding of the nature and functional significance of complex symbiotic relationships within corals. We aim to understand the role specific symbiotic members of the coral microbiome play in coral physiology, evolution and adaptation to climate change by utilizing multiomics, field sampling and lab model systems. In specific, corals in the Persian/Arabian Gulf are exposed to extreme temperatures that are significantly higher than other parts of the oceans. Thus, studying coral holobiont response to extreme heat in the Gulf will likely shed light on how corals elsewhere will behave and how to best rescue them in the future as temperatures rise globally. We are specifically interested in the following topics:

Coral Microbiome.jpeg
Corals Under the Sea

Defining the microbiome role in heat stress tolerance

The coral microbiome is dynamic and recent evidence suggests it undergoes major changes under heat stress. However, the exact mechanisms that are brought on by this microbiome change and its influence on the coral host are largely unknown. We are using a combination of multiomics techniques to pinpoint microbial drivers of adaptation to heat stress and how they accomplish so in the hopes of developing coral probiotics.

Plain English Summary

Corals play a critical role in supporting fisheries, contributing significantly to the global economy by providing habitats that sustain approximately 25% of all marine species and generating an estimated $375 billion per year in ecosystem services. However, due to climate change corals face the threat of extinction. In the Persian/Arabian Gulf (PAG), corals have historically adapted to extreme temperatures that are lethal to corals elsewhere. Specifically, the PAG coral microbiome plays an important role in coral adaptation; however, the mechanisms that enable this microbiome to benefit its host are mostly unknown. We are using a suite of state-of-the-art techniques to pinpoint the important players in this microbiome and the exact the mechanisms they use to benefit their host.



Mohamed, A.R., Ochsenkühn, M.A., Kazlak, A.M., Moustafa, A., and Amin, S.A. The coral microbiome: towards an understanding of the molecular mechanisms of coral–microbiota interactions. FEMS Microbiol. Rev. 47, fuad005.

coral polyp


Ochsenkühn, M.A., Schmitt-Kopplin, P., Harir, M., and Amin, S.A. Coral metabolite gradients affect microbial community structures and act as a disease cue. Communications Biology 1, 184.

Coral metabolomics
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