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Publication Date


First Advisor

Rachel Wright

Second Advisor

Robin Sleith

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Biological Sciences


Bioinformatics, Coral, Genomics, Coral disease, Gene expression


Coral reef ecosystems, critical reserves of marine biodiversity, are particularly vulnerable to climate change, which has exacerbated other coral threats such as disease. In the Caribbean region disease is the leading cause of coral mortality. Intraspecific heterogeneity with regard to disease resistance has been observed in coral populations, but the molecular mechanisms of disease resistance remain largely unknown in coral. This project analyzes phenotypic and predictive gene expression data from samples of Montastraea cavernosa, a reef-building scleractinian coral, in order to characterize the roots of disease resistance in the species. We found two genes with expression patterns significantly associated with resistance to a bacterial pathogen. One of these genes, BRICHOS, has been previously found upregulated in corals under heat stress. Resistant individuals upregulated mitotic activities relative to susceptible individuals, suggesting that higher rates of cell proliferation or greater populations of highly proliferative cells may contribute to pathogen resistance.


©2020 Emma R. Kelley. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




48 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 41-48)