The Vibrio shiloi/Oculina patagonica model system of coral bleaching

Eugene Rosenberg, Leah Falkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The scleractinian coral Oculina patagonica undergoes bleaching (loss of its endosymbiotic zooxanthellae) every summer in the eastern Mediterranean Sea when seawater temperatures rise. The causative agent of the disease is Vibrio shiloi. The pathogen adheres to a β-galactoside-containing receptor in the coral mucus, penetrates into epithelial cells, differentiates into a viable-but-not-culturable form, multiplies, and produces a proline-rich peptide toxin that inhibits photosynthesis of the zooxanthellae in the presence of ammonia. Several of the virulence factors, such as adhesin, toxin, and superoxide dismutase, are produced only at the elevated summer seawater temperatures. The fireworm Hermodice carunculata is a winter reservoir and spring/summer vector for V. shiloi. The generality of the bacterial hypothesis of coral bleaching is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-159
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Microbiology
StatePublished - 2004


  • Bacterial pathogenesis
  • Fireworm
  • Photosynthesis inhibition
  • Viable-but-not-culturable
  • Zooxanthellae


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