Author(s): JC Bythell, MR Barer, RP Cooney, JR Guest
Aims: To determine the spatial structure of microbial communities associated with disease lesions of reef corals (Scleractinia).
Methods and Results: Agarose pre-embedding preserved the structure of the disease lesion and surrounding tissues prior to demineralization of the carbonate exoskeleton and embedding in resin. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was used to localize bacteria in the lesions of various diseases.
Conclusions: The techniques successfully preserved the in situ spatial structure of degenerated coral tissues. In one case (white plague disease), significant bacterial populations were found only in fragmented remnants of degenerated coral tissues at the lesion boundary that would not have been detected using conventional histopathological techniques.
Significance and Impact of the Study: Determining the composition, spatial structure and dynamics of microbial communities within the disease lesions is necessary to understand the process of disease progression. The methods described may be applicable to a wide range of diseases involving necrotic lesion formation and requiring extensive tissue processing, such as skeleton demineralization.