Rapid test for potential probiotic in seawater may reveal coral health

The multi-institute research team has developed a method to quickly and non-invasively test species of bacteria known to benefit coral – they test seawater near coral. Their approach, first published online July 18 in Marine Biotechnology, made the cover of the August print edition of the journal.

“It is believed that certain bacteria associated with coral protect the coral as probiotics, and in order to develop coral probiotics, it is important to collect these bacteria for further study,” said article author Natsuko Miura. , Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Osaka Prefecture University.

She also noted that the detection and identification of bacteria is essential to check the balance of the bacterial flora of the coral, the collective balance of bacteria that exist in any organism.

“Previously, the researchers had suggested that the composition of the microbial flora in the seawater around the coral could be used as an environmental indicator,” said Miura, explaining that the challenge is to determine exactly how the bacteria are distributed in the sea. he seawater reflects the health of corals. “To better understand this, we are collecting and analyzing bacteria from the coral. But, in the previous collection methods, the bacteria associated with the coral were obtained by destroying the coral body. We thought it was problematic to destroy the coral to protect it.

Researchers set out to develop a rapid detection method to identify beneficial bacteria in seawater samples taken around coral reefs. They focused on Galaxea fascicularis, a reef-building coral found off Sesoko Island in Okinawa, Japan. Ruegeria bacteria species are believed to provide probiotic benefits to this coral, such as vitamin B12 production and protection against certain pathogens, according to Miura.

In general, to identify specific species, researchers use two fragments of defined genetic code called primers to target and isolate the longer desired genetic sequences. Once isolated, the sequence can be copied and amplified in amounts large enough to match individual species. Frequently, potential primers are proposed based on various genetic factors but require verification.

In addition to the newly developed primers, Miura and his team hypothesized that the physical characteristics of two primers from a set of 55 proposed in 2020 that were needed to verify seawater content during this period of development , would reliably identify Ruegeria species in seawater and coral samples from Sesoko Island in just a few hours. They were right.

“Our results indicate that this specific primer set allows for easy and rapid isolation of specific bacterial species, facilitating the isolation of bacteria of interest,” Miura said, adding that they found higher concentrations of the ‘Ruegeria species in coral than in seawater, suggesting that bacteria may be concentrated in the coral. “Although more studies are needed to determine the differences in the abundance of bacteria in corals and seawater, the new method makes it easier to test whether the seawater around the coral gets beneficial bacteria linked to it. to the coral without destroying the coral. “

Researchers are now providing samples of the identified bacteria species to public repositories in the hope that others will be able to expand and accelerate work to better understand and use coral probiotics, according to Miura.

“In the future, looking for bacteria in the seawater around the coral will allow us to quickly check the health of the coral,” said Miura.

Other contributors include first author Ruriko Kitamura, Yumi Nishikawa, Yuna Nishimura, Keita Kobayashi and Michihiko Kataoka, Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Osaka Prefecture University; Michihiro Ito, Center for Molecular Biosciences, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, Ryukyus University; Toshiyuki Takagi, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo; and Hideyuki Yamashiro, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, Sesoko Station, Ryukyu University.

The Collaborative Research of Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JP19K15739, JP17K15402, JP18K14479 and JP21K14766), the Nippon Life Insurance Foundation, Sugiyama Chemical & Industrial Laboratory and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JPM-JAX20B9) supported this research.

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization / authors and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author (s). See it in full here.

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