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  1. Metabolites exuded by primary producers comprise a significant fraction of marine dissolved organic matter, a poorly characterized, heterogenous mixture that dictates microbial metabolism and biogeochemical cycling. We present a foundational untargeted molecular analysis of exudates released by coral reef primary producers using liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry to examine compounds produced by two coral species and three types of algae (macroalgae, turfing microalgae, and crustose coralline algae [CCA]) from Mo’orea, French Polynesia. Of 10,568 distinct ion features recovered from reef and mesocosm waters, 1,667 were exuded by producers; the majority (86%) were organism specific, reflecting a clear divide between coral and algal exometabolomes. These data allowed us to examine two tenets of coral reef ecology at the molecular level. First, stoichiometric analyses show a significantly reduced nominal carbon oxidation state of algal exometabolites than coral exometabolites, illustrating one ecological mechanism by which algal phase shifts engender fundamental changes in the biogeochemistry of reef biomes. Second, coral and algal exometabolomes were differentially enriched in organic macronutrients, revealing a mechanism for reef nutrient-recycling. Coral exometabolomes were enriched in diverse sources of nitrogen and phosphorus, including tyrosine derivatives, oleoyl-taurines, and acyl carnitines. Exometabolites of CCA and turf algae were significantly enriched in nitrogen withmore »distinct signals from polyketide macrolactams and alkaloids, respectively. Macroalgal exometabolomes were dominated by nonnitrogenous compounds, including diverse prenol lipids and steroids. This study provides molecular-level insights into biogeochemical cycling on coral reefs and illustrates how changing benthic cover on reefs influences reef water chemistry with implications for microbial metabolism.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. null (Ed.)
  3. The rapidly advancing field of metabolomics encompasses a diverse suite of powerful analytical and bioinformatic tools that can help to reveal the diversity and activity of chemical compounds in individual organisms, species interactions, and entire ecosystems. In this perspective we use examples from studies of coral reefs to illustrate ways in which metabolomics has been and can be applied to understand coastal ecosystems. Examples of new insights that can be provided by metabolomics include resolving metabolite exchange between plants, animals and their microbiota, identifying the relevant metabolite exchanges associated with the onset and maintenance of diverse, microbial mutualisms characterizing unknown molecules that act as cues in coral, reproduction, or defining the suites of compounds involved in coral-algal competition and microbialization of algal-dominated ecosystems. Here we outline sampling, analytical and informatic methods that marine biologists and ecologists can apply to understand the role of chemical processes in ecosystems, with a focus on open access data analysis workflows and democratized databases. Finally, we demonstrate how these metabolomics tools and bioinformatics approaches can provide scientists the opportunity to map detailed metabolic inventories and dynamics for a holistic view of the relationships among reef organisms, their symbionts and their surrounding marine environment.
  4. doi 10.1002/lom3.10359