With the rising threats to marine ecosystems, stress to the coral reefs is leading to an increase in disease prevalence. Cnidarians contain an innate immune system that is responsible for destroying any pathogenic microbes but is also involved in the mutualistic relationship between cnidarians and dinoflagellates. In this research, we focused on the characterization and expression of tyrosinase-like genes in the anemone Exaiptasia pallida as a function of health and symbiotic state. This project was inspired by an unknown “mystery disease” in E. pallida that resulted in darkening of tissues and retraction of tentacles before disintegrating and ultimately dying. It was hypothesized that the darkening of the tissue could be due to melanin production and therefore functional work was performed on tyrosinase genes, which in vertebrates is important in the melanin production pathway. After characterizing tyrosinase-like genes in E. pallida that were similar to tyrosinase sequences in humans, gene expression levels were compared between healthy and sick animals using qPCR. A trend was displayed in both genes where healthy animals expressed higher levels of the tyrosinase gene than sick animals. Expression was also compared between aposymbiotic and symbiotic E. pallida to determine the role of tyrosinase in cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis. The data showed that there was no significant difference in the expression of the tyrosinase genes between the aposymbiotic and the symbiotic E. pallida. Overall these results indicate that the tyrosinase genes could be used to detect early stages of disease in cnidarians.


Berry College Startup Funds

This document is currently not available here.