Transcription factor NF-κB is modulated by symbiotic status in a sea anemone model of cnidarian bleaching.

Academic Article


  • Transcription factor NF-κB plays a central role in immunity from fruit flies to humans, and NF-κB activity is altered in many human diseases. To investigate a role for NF-κB in immunity and disease on a broader evolutionary scale we have characterized NF-κB in a sea anemone (Exaiptasia pallida; called Aiptasia herein) model for cnidarian symbiosis and dysbiosis (i.e., "bleaching"). We show that the DNA-binding site specificity of Aiptasia NF-κB is similar to NF-κB proteins from a broad expanse of organisms. Analyses of NF-κB and IκB kinase proteins from Aiptasia suggest that non-canonical NF-κB processing is an evolutionarily ancient pathway, which can be reconstituted in human cells. In Aiptasia, NF-κB protein levels, DNA-binding activity, and tissue expression increase when loss of the algal symbiont Symbiodinium is induced by heat or chemical treatment. Kinetic analysis of NF-κB levels following loss of symbiosis show that NF-κB levels increase only after Symbiodinium is cleared. Moreover, introduction of Symbiodinium into naïve Aiptasia larvae results in a decrease in NF-κB expression. Our results suggest that Symbiodinium suppresses NF-κB in order to enable establishment of symbiosis in Aiptasia. These results are the first to demonstrate a link between changes in the conserved immune regulatory protein NF-κB and cnidarian symbiotic status.
  • Published In

  • Scientific Reports  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Animals, DNA, Humans, NF-kappa B, Sea Anemones, Symbiosis
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Mansfield KM; Carter NM; Nguyen L; Cleves PA; Alshanbayeva A; Williams LM; Crowder C; Penvose AR; Finnerty JR; Weis VM
  • Start Page

  • 16025
  • Volume

  • 7
  • Issue

  • 1