The role of gene expression and symbiosis in reef-building coral acquired heat tolerance. Academic Article uri icon


  • Predicting how reef-building corals will respond to accelerating ocean warming caused by climate change requires knowledge of how acclimation and symbiosis modulate heat tolerance in coral early life-history stages. We assayed transcriptional responses to heat in larvae and juveniles of 11 reproductive crosses of Acropora tenuis colonies along the Great Barrier Reef. Larvae produced from the warmest reef had the highest heat tolerance, although gene expression responses to heat were largely conserved by cross identity. Juvenile transcriptional responses were driven strongly by symbiosis - when in symbiosis with heat-evolved Symbiodiniaceae, hosts displayed intermediate expression between its progenitor Cladocopium and the more stress tolerant Durusdinium, indicating the acquisition of tolerance is a conserved evolutionary process in symbionts. Heat-evolved Symbiodiniaceae facilitated juvenile survival under heat stress, although host transcriptional responses to heat were positively correlated among those hosting different genera of Symbiodiniaceae. These findings reveal the relative contribution of parental environmental history as well as symbiosis establishment in coral molecular responses to heat in early life-history stages.

published proceedings

  • Nat Commun

author list (cited authors)

  • Strader, M. E., & Quigley, K. M.

complete list of authors

  • Strader, Marie E||Quigley, Kate M

publication date

  • August 2022