A research team from the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (NMMBA), in collaboration with five other research institutes, made a breakthrough with the discovery of a mechanism that influences symbiotic relations between algae and corals in the sea, helping to develop a new research field in the area of lipid bodies in corals.
The achievement was published in the latest issue of PROTEOMICS, an international research journal, and is featured as the cover story.
NMMBA deputy director Chen Chii-shiarng (陳啟祥) said the living mechanism that stimulates the growth of coral was unique because it is critical for the growth and productivity of the marine animal, but only when it is in a symbiotic condition with Symbiodinium, a kind of algae. Coral bleaching, which causes the death of corals, happens when Symbiodinium leaves the marine animal.
Unlike the mechanism found in most animals where an infection from another biological being may cause illness or death, a coral’s life depends on the symbiotic condition, Chen said.
The research team, funded by the National Science Council, discovered that the lipid bodies in corals are unique organelles that are formed when symbiotic relations exist and can be an indicator of a coral’s health.
Chen said the area of lipid bodies in corals was under-researched and that studies in the past had been limited to thinking about the function of lipid bodies solely as a way to provide energy, but the team discovered that its functions include energy metabolism, cytoskeleton and intracellular trafficking, DNA repair and many others.
Chen said if a database recording the various mechanisms of the endosymbiotic relationship between coral and Symbiodinium is established, then it may be possible to better monitor the health of corals, which would also improve understanding of the ocean’s ecology and changes in the ocean’s environment.
Moreover, Chen said if the complicated mechanism in the symbiotic relationship between plant and animal cell biology, like the condition between coral and Symbiodinium, is further decoded, the research results could even be applied to food production or the medical field.