Microbial strategies for survival in the glass sponge Vazella pourtalesii

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Bayer, Kristina; Busch, Kathrin; Kenchington, Ellen; Beazley, Lindsay; Franzenburg, Sören; Michels, Jan; Hentschel, Ute; Slaby, Beate M (2020). mSystems https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00473-20.


Few studies have explored the microbiomes of glass sponges (Hexactinellida). The present study seeks to elucidate the composition of the microbiota associated with the glass sponge Vazella pourtalesii and the functional strategies of the main symbionts. We combined microscopic approaches with metagenome-guided microbial genome reconstruction and amplicon community profiling toward this goal. Microscopic imaging revealed that the host and microbial cells appeared within dense biomass patches that are presumably syncytial tissue aggregates. Based on abundances in amplicon libraries and metagenomic data, SAR324 bacteria, Crenarchaeota, Patescibacteria, and Nanoarchaeota were identified as abundant members of the V. pourtalesii microbiome; thus, their genomic potentials were analyzed in detail. A general pattern emerged in that the V. pourtalesii symbionts had very small genome sizes, in the range of 0.5 to 2.2 Mb, and low GC contents, even below those of seawater relatives. Based on functional analyses of metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), we propose two major microbial strategies: the “givers,” namely, Crenarchaeota and SAR324, heterotrophs and facultative anaerobes, produce and partly secrete all required amino acids and vitamins. The “takers,” Nanoarchaeota and Patescibacteria, are anaerobes with reduced genomes that tap into the microbial community for resources, e.g., lipids and DNA, likely using pilus-like structures. We posit that the existence of microbial cells in sponge syncytia together with the low-oxygen conditions in the seawater environment are factors that shape the unique compositional and functional properties of the microbial community associated with V. pourtalesii.


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