Direct Visualization of Mucus Production by the Cold-Water Coral Lophelia pertusa with Digital Holographic Microscopy.PLoS One. 2016; 11(2):e0146766.Plos
Lophelia pertusa is the dominant reef-building organism of cold-water coral reefs, and is known to produce significant amounts of mucus, which could involve an important metabolic cost. Mucus is involved in particle removal and feeding processes, yet the triggers and dynamics of mucus production are currently still poorly described because the existing tools to study these processes are not appropriate. Using a novel microscopic technique-digital holographic microscopy (DHM)-we studied the mucus release of L. pertusa under various experimental conditions. DHM technology permits μm-scale observations and allows the visualization of transparent mucoid substances in real time without staining. Fragments of L. pertusa were first maintained in flow-through chambers without stressors and imaged with DHM, then exposed to various stressors (suspended particles, particulate food and air exposure) and re-imaged. Under non-stressed conditions no release of mucus was observed, whilst mucus strings and sheaths were produced in response to suspended particles (activated charcoal and drill cuttings sediment) i.e. in a stressed condition. Mucus strings and so-called 'string balls' were also observed in response to exposure to particulate food (brine shrimp Artemia salina). Upon air-exposure, mucus production was clearly visible once the fragments were returned to the flow chamber. Distinct optical properties such as optical path length difference (OPD) were measured with DHM in response to the various stimuli suggesting that different mucus types are produced by L. pertusa. Mucus produced to reject particles is similar in refractive index to the surrounding seawater, suggesting that the energy content of this mucus is low. In contrast, mucus produced in response to either food particle addition or air exposure had a higher refractive index, suggesting a higher metabolic investment in the production of these mucoid substances. This paper shows for the first time the potential of DHM technology for the detection, characterization and quantification of mucus production through OPD measurements in L. pertusa.