Imaging the uptake of nitrogen-fixing bacteria into larvae of the coral Acropora millepora

K.A. Lema, Peta Clode, Matt Kilburn, Ruth Thornton, B.L. Willis, D.G. Bourne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 International Society for Microbial Ecology.Diazotrophic bacteria are instrumental in generating biologically usable forms of nitrogen by converting abundant dinitrogen gas (N 2) into available forms, such as ammonium. Although nitrogen is crucial for coral growth, direct observation of associations between diazotrophs and corals has previously been elusive. We applied fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry to observe the uptake of 15 N-enriched diazotrophic Vibrio sp. isolated from Acropora millepora into conspecific coral larvae. Incorporation of Vibrio sp. cells was observed in coral larvae after 4-h incubation with enriched bacteria. Uptake was restricted to the aboral epidermis of larvae, where Vibrio cells clustered in elongated aggregations. Other bacterial associates were also observed in epidermal areas in FISH analyses. Although the fate and role of these bacteria requires additional investigation, this study describes a powerful approach to further explore cell associations and nutritional pathways in the early life stages of the coral holobiont.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1804–1808
Number of pages5
JournalISME Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


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