Redefining the sponge-symbiont acquisition paradigm: sponge microbes exhibit chemotaxis towards host-derived compounds

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Environmental Microbiology Reports, 2017, 9 (6), pp. 750 - 755
Issue Date:
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© 2017 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd Marine sponges host stable and species-specific microbial symbionts that are thought to be acquired and maintained by the host through a combination of vertical transmission and filtration from the surrounding seawater. To assess whether the microbial symbionts also actively contribute to the establishment of these symbioses, we performed in situ experiments on Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef, to quantify the chemotactic responses of natural populations of seawater microorganisms towards cellular extracts of the reef sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile. Flow cytometry analysis revealed significant levels of microbial chemotaxis towards R. odorabile extracts and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing showed enrichment of ‘sponge-specific’ microbial phylotypes, including a cluster within the Gemmatimonadetes and another within the Actinobacteria. These findings infer a potential mechanism for how sponges can acquire bacterial symbionts from the surrounding environment and suggest an active role of the symbionts in finding their host.
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