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d'Auriac, IG, Quinn RA, Maughan H, Nothias LF, Little M, Kapono CA, Cobian A, Reyes BT, Green K, Quistad SD, Leray M, Smith JE, Dorrestein PC, Rohwer F, Deheyn DD, Hartmann AC.  2018.  Before platelets: the production of platelet-activating factor during growth and stress in a basal marine organism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 285   10.1098/rspb.2018.1307   AbstractWebsite

Corals and humans represent two extremely disparate metazoan lineages and are therefore useful for comparative evolutionary studies. Two lipid-based molecules that are central to human immunity, platelet-activating factor (PAF) and Lyso-PAF were recently identified in scleractinian corals. To identify processes in corals that involve these molecules, PAF and Lyso-PAF biosynthesis was quantified in conditions known to stimulate PAF production in mammals (tissue growth and exposure to elevated levels of ultraviolet light) and in conditions unique to corals (competing with neighbouring colonies over benthic space). Similar to observations in mammals, PAF production was higher in regions of active tissue growth and increased when corals were exposed to elevated levels of ultraviolet light. PAF production also increased when corals were attacked by the stinging cells of a neighbouring colony, though only the attacked coral exhibited an increase in PAF. This reaction was observed in adjacent areas of the colony, indicating that this response is coordinated across multiple polyps including those not directly subject to the stress. PAF and Lyso-PAF are involved in coral stress responses that are both shared with mammals and unique to the ecology of cnidarians.

Quinn, RA, Vermeij MJA, Hartmann AC, d'Auriac IG, Benler S, Haas A, Quistad SD, Lim YW, Little M, Sandin S, Smith JE, Dorrestein PC, Rohwer F.  2016.  Metabolomics of reef benthic interactions reveals a bioactive lipid involved in coral defence. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 283   10.1098/rspb.2016.0469   AbstractWebsite

Holobionts are assemblages of microbial symbionts and their macrobial host. As extant representatives of some of the oldest macro-organisms, corals and algae are important for understanding how holobionts develop and interact with one another. Using untargeted metabolomics, we show that non-self interactions altered the coral metabolome more than self-interactions (i.e. different or same genus, respectively). Platelet activating factor (PAF) and Lyso-PAF, central inflammatory modulators in mammals, were major lipid components of the coral holobionts. When corals were damaged during competitive interactions with algae, PAF increased along with expression of the gene encoding Lyso-PAF acetyltransferase; the protein responsible for converting Lyso-PAF to PAF. This shows that self and non-self recognition among some of the oldest extant holobionts involve bioactive lipids identical to those in highly derived taxa like humans. This further strengthens the hypothesis that major players of the immune response evolved during the pre-Cambrian.