The etiology of black band disease (BBD), a persistent, globally distributed coral disease characterized by a dark microbial mat, is still unclear. A metatranscriptomics approach was used to unravel the roles of the major mat constituents in the disease process. By comparing the transcriptomes of the mat constituents with those of the surface microbiota of diseased and healthy corals, we showed a shift in bacterial composition and function in BBD-affected corals. mRNA reads of Cyanobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla were prominent in the BBD mat. Cyanobacterial adenosylhomocysteinase, involved in cyanotoxin production, was the most transcribed gene in the band consortium. Pathogenic and non-pathogenic forms of Vibrio spp., mainly transcribing the thiamine ABC transporter, were abundant and highly active in both the band and surface tissues. Desulfovibrio desulfuricans was the primary producer of sulfide in the band. Members of the Bacilli class expressed high levels of rhodanese, an enzyme responsible for cyanide and sulfide detoxification. These results offer a first look at the varied functions of the microbiota in the disease mat and surrounding coral surface and enabled us to develop an improved functional model for this disease.
- Black band disease