Marine microbial symbiosis heats up: the phylogenetic and functional response of a sponge holobiont to thermal stress.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
The ISME journal, 2013, 7 (5), pp. 991 - 1002
Issue Date:
2013-05
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Large-scale mortality of marine invertebrates is a major global concern for ocean ecosystems and many sessile, reef-building animals, such as sponges and corals, are experiencing significant declines through temperature-induced disease and bleaching. The health and survival of marine invertebrates is often dependent on intimate symbiotic associations with complex microbial communities, yet we have a very limited understanding of the detailed biology and ecology of both the host and the symbiont community in response to environmental stressors, such as elevated seawater temperatures. Here, we use the ecologically important sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile as a model to explore the changes in symbiosis during the development of temperature-induced necrosis. Expression profiling of the sponge host was examined in conjunction with the phylogenetic and functional structure and the expression profile of the symbiont community. Elevated temperature causes an immediate stress response in both the host and symbiont community, including reduced expression of functions that mediate their partnership. Disruption to nutritional interdependence and molecular interactions during early heat stress further destabilizes the holobiont, ultimately leading to the loss of archetypal sponge symbionts and the introduction of new microorganisms that have functional and expression profiles consistent with a scavenging lifestyle, a lack virulence functions and a high growth rate. Previous models have postulated various mechanisms of mortality and disease in marine invertebrates. Our study suggests that interruption of symbiotic interactions is a major determinant for mortality in marine sessile invertebrates. High symbiont specialization and low functional redundancy, thus make these holobionts extremely vulnerable to environmental perturbations, including climate change.
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