As significant anthropogenic pressures are putting undue stress on the world's oceans, there has been a concerted effort to understand how marine organisms respond to environmental change. Transcriptomic approaches, in particular, have been readily employed to document the mRNA-level response of a plethora of marine invertebrates exposed to an array of simulated stress scenarios, with the tacit and untested assumption being that the respective proteins show a corresponding trend. To better understand the degree of congruency between mRNA and protein expression in an endosymbiotic marine invertebrate, mRNAs and proteins were sequenced from the same samples of the common, Indo-Pacific coral Seriatopora hystrix exposed to stable or upwelling-simulating conditions for 1 week. Of the 167 proteins downregulated at variable temperature, only two were associated with mRNAs that were also differentially expressed between treatments. Of the 378 differentially expressed genes, none were associated with a differentially expressed protein. Collectively, these results highlight the inherent risk of inferring cellular behaviour based on mRNA expression data alone and challenge the current, mRNA-focused approach taken by most marine and many molecular biologists.
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