Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 11, pp 4963–4973 | Cite as

Season structures prokaryotic partners but not algal symbionts in subtropical hard corals

  • Lin Cai
  • Guowei Zhou
  • Haoya Tong
  • Ren-Mao Tian
  • Weipeng Zhang
  • Wei Ding
  • Sheng Liu
  • Hui Huang
  • Pei-Yuan Qian
Environmental biotechnology


Coral reef ecosystems have great economic, social, and ecological value. The ecological success of coral reef ecosystems critically depends on coral-algal symbiosis and coral-prokaryotic partnership. However, seasonal changes underlying these relationships in subtropical hard corals of Hong Kong are poorly studied. Here, we compared the community changes of algal symbionts and prokaryotic partners in Platygyra carnosa and Galaxea fascicularis from Hong Kong collected at two seasonal time points of winter and summer via massively parallel sequencing of genetic markers and multivariate analysis. The results indicated that algal symbionts showed no significant changes between the two seasonal time points but prokaryotic partners changed substantially. Prokaryotic partners putatively involved in photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and sulfur oxidation increased significantly from winter to summer, while prokaryotic partners potentially associated with chemosynthesis, ammonia oxidation, and nitrite oxidation decreased significantly from winter to summer. Dissolved oxygen and pH served as the main contributors influencing prokaryotic partners in winter, while temperature, turbidity, and salinity played a dominant role in shaping prokaryotic partners in summer. The findings of the present study suggest that season structures prokaryotic partners but not algal symbionts in subtropical hard corals.


Season Coral Algal symbiont Prokaryotic partner 



The authors would like to thank Drs. Yue Him Wong, Apple Pui Yi Chui, and James Y. Xie for their kind help in experimental design and field sample collection.

Funding information

This study was supported by the NSFC-Guangdong Joint Fund (U1301232).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Corals are marine invertebrates. The authors declare that this article follows the guidelines established by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong SAR Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shenzhen Research Institute and Division of Life ScienceThe Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyHong Kong SARChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Tropical Marine Bio-resources and Ecology, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina

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