Seascape genomics reveals candidate molecular targets of heat stress adaptation in three coral species
Anomalous heat waves are causing a major decline of hard corals around the world and threatening the persistence of coral reefs. There are, however, reefs that had been exposed to recurrent thermal stress over the years and whose corals appeared tolerant against heat. One of the mechanisms that could explain this phenomenon is local adaptation, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly known. In this work, we applied a seascape genomics approach to study heat stress adaptation in three
... adaptation in three coral species of New Caledonia (southwestern Pacific) and to uncover molecular actors potentially involved. We used remote sensing data to characterize the environmental trends across the reef system, and sampled corals living at the most contrasted sites. These samples underwent next generation sequencing to reveal single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) of which frequencies associated with heat stress gradients. As these SNPs might underpin an adaptive role, we characterized the functional roles of the genes located in their genomic neighborhood. In each of the studied species, we found heat stress associated SNPs notably located in proximity of genes coding for well-established actors of the cellular responses against heat. Among these, we can mention proteins involved in DNA damage-repair, protein folding, oxidative stress homeostasis, inflammatory and apoptotic pathways. In some cases, the same putative molecular targets of heat stress adaptation recurred among species. Together, these results underscore the relevance and the power of the seascape genomics approach for the discovery of adaptive traits that could allow corals to persist across wider thermal ranges.