Role of endosymbiotic zooxanthellae and coral mucus in the adhesion of the coral-bleaching pathogen Vibrio shiloi to its host

Ehud Banin, Tomer Israely, Maoz Fine, Yossi Loya, Eugene Rosenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Vibrio shiloi, the causative agent of bleaching the coral Oculina patagonica in the Mediterranean Sea, adheres to its coral host by a β-D-galactopyranoside-containing receptor on the coral surface. The receptor is present in the coral mucus, since V. shiloi adhered avidly to mucus-coated ELISA plates. Adhesion was inhibited by methyl-β-D-galactopyranoside. Removal of the mucus from O. patagonica resulted in a delay in adhesion of V. shiloi to the coral, corresponding to regeneration of the mucus. DCMU inhibited the recovery of adhesion of the bacteria to the mucus-depleted corals, indicating that active photosynthesis by the endosymbiotic zooxanthellae was necessary for the synthesis or secretion of the receptor. Further evidence of the role of the zooxanthellae in producing the receptor came from a study of adhesion of V. shiloi to different species of corals. The bacteria failed to adhere to bleached corals and white (azooxanthellate) O. patagonica cave corals, both of which lacked the algae. In addition, V. shiloi adhered to two Mediterranean corals (Madracis and Cladocora) that contained zooxanthellae and did not adhere to two azooxanthellate Mediterranean corals (Phyllangia and Polycyathus). V. shiloi demonstrated positive chemotaxis towards the mucus of O. patagonica. The data demonstrate that endosymbiotic zooxanthellae contribute to the production of coral mucus and that V. shiloi infects only mucus-containing, zooxanthellate corals.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)33-37
Number of pages5
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 May 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Center for the Study of Emerging Diseases, the Porter Super Center for Ecological and Environmental Studies and the Pasha Gol Chair for Applied Microbiology.


  • Adhesion
  • Coral bleaching
  • Coral mucus
  • Vibrio shiloi
  • Zooxanthellae


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