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Heat stress is the most common factor for coral bleaching, which has increased both in frequency and severity due to global warming. In the present study, the stony coral Acropora aculeus was subjected to acute heat stress and entire transcriptomes were sequenced via the next generation sequencing platform. Four paired-end libraries were constructed and sequenced in two groups, including a control and a heat stress group. A total of 120,319,751 paired-end reads with lengths of 2 × 100 bp were assembled and 55,021 coral-derived genes were obtained. After read mapping and abundance estimation, 9110 differentially expressed genes were obtained in the comparison between the control and heat stress group, including 4465 significantly upregulated and 4645 significantly downregulated genes. Twenty-three GO terms in the Biological Process category were overrepresented for significantly upregulated genes, and divided into six groups according to their relationship. These three groups were related to the NF-κB signal pathway, and the remaining three groups were relevant for pathogen response, immunocyte activation and protein ubiquitination. Forty-three common genes were found in four GO terms, which were directly related to the NF-κB signal pathway. These included 2 NACHT, LRR, PYD domains-containing protein, 5 nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein, 29 NLRC3-like protein, 4 NLRC5-like protein, and 3 uncharacterized protein. For significantly downregulated genes, 27 overrepresented GO terms were found in the Biological Process category, which were relevant to protein ubiquitination and ATP metabolism. Our results indicate that heat stress suppressed the immune response level via the NLRC3-like protein, the fine-tuning of protein turnover activity, and ATP metabolism. This might disrupt the balance of coral-zooxanthellae symbiosis and result in the bleaching of the coral A. aculeus.The transcriptomes of stony coral Acropora aculeus were sequenced after heat stress.There were 4465 upregulated genes and 4645 downregulated genes.Three GO term groups were related to the NF-κB signal pathway for upregulated genes.There were 29 NLRC3-like protein in the GO term of NF-κB pathway regulation.