The Possible Role of Cyanobacterial Filaments in Coral Black Band Disease Pathology

Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Luba Arotsker, Diana Rasoulouniriana, Nachshon Siboni, Yossi Loya, Ariel Kushmaro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Black band disease (BBD), characterized by a black mat or line that migrates across a coral colony leaving behind it a bare skeleton, is a persistent disease affecting massive corals worldwide. Previous microscopic and molecular examination of this disease in faviid corals from the Gulf of Eilat revealed a number of possible pathogens with the most prominent being a cyanobacterium identified as Pseudoscillatoria coralii. We examined diseased coral colonies using histopathological and molecular methods in order to further assess the possible role of this cyanobacterium, its mode of entry, and pathological effects on the coral host tissues. Affected areas of colonies with BBD were sampled for examination using both light and transmission electron microscopies. Results showed that this dominant cyanobacterium was found on the coral surface, at the coral-skeletal interface, and invading the polyp tissues and gastrovascular cavity. Although tissues surrounding the invasive cyanobacterial filaments did not show gross morphological alterations, microscopic examination revealed that the coral cells surrounding the lesion were dissociated, necrotic, and highly vacuolated. No amoebocytes were evident in the mesoglea of affected tissues suggesting a possible repression of the coral immune response. Morphological and molecular similarity of the previously isolated BBD-associated cyanobacterium P. coralii to the current samples strengthens the premise that this species is involved in the disease in this coral. These results indicate that the cyanobacteria may play a pivotal role in this disease and that the mode of entry may be via ingestion, penetrating the coral via the gastrodermis, as well as through the skeletal-tissue interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-185
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1167/07


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