Red Fluorescent Protein Responsible for Pigmentation in Trematode-Infected Porites compressa Tissues
Reports of coral disease have increased dramatically over the last decade; however, the biological mechanisms that corals utilize to limit infection and resist disease remain poorly understood. Compromised coral tissues often display non-normal pigmentation that potentially represents an inflammation-like response, although these pigments remain uncharacterized. Using spectral emission analysis and cryo-histological and electrophoretic techniques, we investigated the pink pigmentation associated with trematodiasis, infection with Podocotyloides stenometre larval trematode, in Porites compressa. Spectral emission analysis reveals that macroscopic areas of pink pigmentation fluoresce under blue light excitation (450 nm) and produce a broad emission peak at 590 nm (+/- 6) with a 60-nm full width at half maximum. Electrophoretic protein separation of pigmented tissue extract confirms the red fluorescence to be a protein rather than a low-molecular-weight compound. Histological sections demonstrate (green fluorescence in healthy coral tissue and red fluorescence in the trematodiasis-compromised tissue. The red fluorescent protein (FP) is limited to the epidermis, is not associated with cells or granules, and appears unstructured. These data collectively suggest that the red FP is produced and localized ill tissue infected by larval trematodes and plays a role in the immune response in corals.