Environmental microbiology

The deep-sea glass sponge Lophophysema eversa harbours potential symbionts responsible for the nutrient conversions of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur.

PMID 26637128


Glass sponge (Hexactinellida, Porifera) is a special lineage because of its unique tissue organization and skeleton material. Structure and physiology of glass sponge have been extensively studied. However, our knowledge of the glass sponge-associated microbial community and of the interaction with the host is rather limited. Here, we performed genomic studies on the microbial community in the glass sponge Lophophysema eversa in seamount. The microbial community was dominated by an ammonia-oxidizing archaeum (AOA), a nitrite-oxidizing bacterium (NOB) and a sulfur-oxidizing bacterium (SOB), all of which were autotrophs. Genomic analysis on the AOA, NOB and SOB in the sponge revealed specific functional features of sponge-associated microorganisms in comparison with the closely related free-living relatives, including chemotaxis, phage defence, vitamin biosynthesis and nutrient uptake among others, which are related to ecological functions. The three autotrophs play essential roles in the cycles of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur in the microenvironment inside the sponge body, and they are considered to play symbiotic roles in the host as scavengers of toxic ammonia, nitrite and sulfide. Our study extends knowledge regarding the metabolism and the evolution of chemolithotrophs inside the invertebrate body.