Under homoeostatic conditions, the relationship between the coral Pocillopora damicornis and Vibrio coralliilyticus is commensal. An increase in temperature, or in the abundance of V. coralliilyticus, can turn this association pathogenic, causing tissue lysis, expulsion of the corals’ symbiotic algae (genus Symbiodinium), and eventually coral death. Using a combination of microfluidics, fluorescence microscopy, stable isotopes, electron microscopy and NanoSIMS isotopic imaging, we provide insights into the onset and progression of V. coralliilyticus infection in the daytime and at night, at the tissue and (sub-)cellular level. The objective of our study was to connect the macro-scale behavioural response of the coral to the micro-scale nutritional interactions that occur between the host and its symbiont. In the daytime, polyps enhanced their mucus production, and actively spewed pathogens. Vibrio infection primarily resulted in the formation of tissue lesions in the coenosarc. NanoSIMS analysis revealed infection reduced 13 C-assimilation in Symbiodinium, but increased 13 C-assimilation in the host. In the night incubations, no mucus spewing was observed, and a mucus film was formed on the coral surface. Vibrio inoculation and infection at night showed reduced 13 C-turnover in Symbiodinium, but did not impact host 13 C-turnover. Our results show that both the nutritional interactions that occur between the two symbiotic partners and the behavioural response of the host organism play key roles in determining the progression and severity of host-pathogen interactions. More generally, our approach provides a new means of studying interactions (ranging from behavioural to metabolic scales) between partners involved in complex holobiont systems, under both homoeostatic and pathogenic conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics