Meeting Abstract

S9-8  Sunday, Jan. 6 11:30 - 12:00  Phenotypic plasticity in chemical defense in sponges and corals GOCHFELD, DJ; Univ. of Mississippi

Many early metazoans use chemical defenses to protect themselves from biotic threats, such as predators, pathogens, and competitors. Production of secondary metabolites as chemical defenses is particularly important for the survival of sessile organisms that cannot escape these potentially life-threatening dangers. Sponges produce a tremendous diversity of secondary metabolites and are well known to rely heavily on chemical defenses for their protection. Factors that affect the production of these compounds are presumed to affect their function as well. Similar to sponges, corals also employ small metabolites for their defense, although these have not been as well studied as in sponges. Using metabolomics and bioassay approaches, we have characterized phenotypic plasticity in secondary metabolite production in sponges and corals in response to a variety of environmental and organismal factors, including geographic location, morphology, and disease state. In many cases, this plasticity translates into biological activity, providing protection against predators and pathogens. Sessile invertebrates, such as sponges and corals, rely on multiple compounds for protection from the suite of threats to which they may be exposed, and phenotypic plasticity provides a mechanism by which they can persist under varied environmental conditions.