Environmental microbiology

Physiology, phylogeny and in situ evidence for bacterial and archaeal nitrifiers in the marine sponge Aplysina aerophoba.

PMID 18363713


The potential for nitrification in the Mediterranean sponge Aplysina aerophoba was assessed using a combined physiological and molecular approach. Nitrate excretion rates in whole sponges reached values of up to 344 nmol g(-1) dry weight (wt) h(-1) (unstimulated) and 1325 nmol g(-1) dry wt h(-1) (stimulated). Addition of nitrapyrin, a nitrification-specific inhibitor, effectively inhibited nitrate excretion. Ammonium was taken up by sponges in spring and excreted in fall, the sponges thus serving as either an ammonium sink or ammonium source. Nitrosospira cluster 1 and Crenarchaeota group I.1A 16S rRNA and amoA genes were recovered from A. aerophoba and other sponges from different world's oceans. The archaeal 16S rRNA genes formed a sponge-specific subcluster, indicating that their representatives are members of the stable microbial community of sponges. On the other hand, clustering was not evident for Nitrosospira rRNA genes which is consistent with their presence in sediment and seawater samples. The presence of both Nitrosospira cluster 1 and crenarchaeal group 1 phylotypes in sponge tissue was confirmed using fluorescently labelled 16S rRNA gene probes. This study contributes to an ongoing effort to link microbial diversity with metabolic functions in the phylogenetically diverse, elusive and so far uncultivated microbial communities of marine sponges.

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