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Coral communities are under increasing pressure from anomalous increases in sea surface temperature. These events have had negative effects on reef ecosystems and it is important to get a better understanding of the cellular mechanisms that allow organisms to survive the stress period before bleaching is evident. To gain insight into the effect of increased temperature on coral communities off the Pacific coast of central Mexico, we evaluated CuZnSOD (superoxide dismutase) activity in branches of Pocillopora verrucosa by simulating stress conditions (31 ºC) and non-stress conditions. There was an increase in SOD activity after 18 h of exposing the corals to 31 ºC, while no increase in activity was observed at 28 ºC. These results were used to quantify the maximum levels of CuZnSOD activity before Symbiodinium were expelled to prevent cell damage due to oxidative stress. We determined that CuZnSOD can be used as a molecular marker to quantify stress levels, prior to bleaching, in coral communities of the region.
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