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Technical Report

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PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)





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During the last several decades corals have been in decline and at least one-third of all coral species are now threatened by extinction. Coral disease has been a major contributor to this threat, but little is known about the responsible pathogens. To date most research has focused on bacterial and fungal diseases; however, viruses may also be important for coral health. Using a combination of empirical viral metagenomics and real-time PCR, we show that Porites compressa corals contain a suite of eukaryotic viruses, many related to the Herpesviridae. This coral-associated viral consortium was found to shift in response to abiotic stressors. In particular, when exposed to reduced pH, elevated nutrients, and thermal stress, the abundance of herpes-like viral sequences rapidly increased in 2 separate experiments. Herpes-like viral sequences were rarely detected in apparently healthy corals, but were abundant in a majority of stressed samples. In addition, surveys of the Nematostella and Hydra genomic projects demonstrate that even distantly related Cnidarians contain numerous herpes-like viral genes, likely as a result of latent or endogenous viral infection. These data support the hypotheses that corals experience viral infections, which are exacerbated by stress, and that herpes-like viruses are common in Cnidarians.

Copyright/Permission Statement

© 2008 National Academy of Sciences.


At the time of this publication Dr. Barott was affiliated with San Diego State University, but she is now a faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania.


coral reefs, disease, Herpesviridae, viral-like particles, virome



Date Posted: 04 October 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.