Molecular detection and ecological significance of the cyanobacterial genera Geitlerinema and Leptolyngbya in black band disease of corals

Jamie L. Myers*, Raju Sekar, Laurie L. Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Black band disease (BBD) is a pathogenic, sulfide-rich microbial mat dominated by filamentous cyanobacteria that infect corals worldwide. We isolated cyanobacteria from BBD into culture, confirmed their presence in the BBD community by using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), and demonstrated their ecological significance in terms of physiological sulfide tolerance and photosynthesis-versus-irradiance values. Twenty-nine BBD samples were collected from nine host coral species, four of which have not previously been investigated, from reefs of the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, St. Croix, and the Philippines. From these samples, seven cyanobacteria were isolated into culture. Cloning and sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene using universal primers indicated that four isolates were related to the genus Geitlerinema and three to the genus Leptolyngbya. DGGE results, obtained using Cyanobacteria-specific 16S rRNA primers, revealed that the most common BBD cyanobacterial sequence, detected in 26 BBD field samples, was related to that of an Oscillatoria sp. The next most common sequence, 99% similar to that of the Geitlerinema BBD isolate, was present in three samples. One Leptolyngbya- and one Phormidium-related sequence were also found. Laboratory experiments using isolates of BBD Geitlerinema and Leptolyngbya revealed that they could carry out sulfide-resistant oxygenic photosynthesis, a relatively rare characteristic among cyanobacteria, and that they are adapted to the sulfide-rich, low-light BBD environment. The presence of the cyanotoxin microcystin in these cultures and in BBD suggests a role in BBD pathogenicity. Our results confirm the presence of Geitlerinema in the BBD microbial community and its ecological significance, which have been challenged, and provide evidence of a second ecologically significant BBD cyanobacterium, Leptolyngbya.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5173-5182
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes

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