Microb Ecol 2007 Nov 28;54(4):730-9. Epub 2007 Mar 28.
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA.
Black band disease (BBD) is a pathogenic consortium of microorganisms that primarily affects massive framework-building scleractinian corals on reefs worldwide. There has been considerable debate concerning the microbial community composition of BBD. The aim of this study was to utilize microbial profiling to assess overall patterns of variation in the BBD bacterial community with respect to geographic location, host coral species, time, and nutrient regime. Length heterogeneity polymerase chain reaction (LH-PCR) was employed to differentiate BBD communities based on the natural variation in the sequence lengths within hypervariable domains of the 16S rRNA gene. Analysis of LH-PCR profiles of 97 BBD samples using multivariate ordination methods and analysis of similarity revealed significant clustering with respect to geographic region when comparing BBD sampled from reefs near Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas' Exuma Chain, the Northern Florida Keys (NFK), and St. John in the US Virgin Islands. There was much variability in BBD community composition on a regional basis, between sites in the NFK, and in terms of coral host species. The observed differences among BBD microbial community profiles were driven primarily by variation in relative abundance of 313-316-bp amplicons, which correspond to cyanobacteria and alpha-proteobacteria. The results obtained in this study support previous reports of intrinsic variability and complexity of the BBD microbial community but also suggest that this variability has biogeographic patterns.