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Genome biology and evolution

Genomic Evidence that Methanotrophic Endosymbionts Likely Provide Deep-Sea Bathymodiolus Mussels with a Sterol Intermediate in Cholesterol Biosynthesis.


PMID 28453654

Abstract

Sterols are key cyclic triterpenoid lipid components of eukaryotic cellular membranes, which are synthesized through complex multi-enzyme pathways. Similar to most animals, Bathymodiolus mussels, which inhabit deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems and harbor methanotrophic and/or thiotrophic bacterial endosymbionts, possess cholesterol as their main sterol. Based on the stable carbon isotope analyses, it has been suggested that host Bathymodiolus mussels synthesize cholesterol using a sterol intermediate derived from the methanotrophic endosymbionts. To test this hypothesis, we sequenced the genome of the methanotrophic endosymbiont in Bathymodiolus platifrons. The genome sequence data demonstrated that the endosymbiont potentially generates up to 4,4-dimethyl-cholesta-8,14,24-trienol, a sterol intermediate in cholesterol biosynthesis, from methane. In addition, transcripts for a subset of the enzymes of the biosynthetic pathway to cholesterol downstream from a sterol intermediate derived from methanotroph endosymbionts were detected in our transcriptome data for B. platifrons. These findings suggest that this mussel can de novo synthesize cholesterol from methane in cooperation with the symbionts. By in situ hybridization analyses, we showed that genes associated with cholesterol biosynthesis from both host and endosymbionts were expressed exclusively in the gill epithelial bacteriocytes containing endosymbionts. Thus, cholesterol production is probably localized within these specialized cells of the gill. Considering that the host mussel cannot de novo synthesize cholesterol and depends largely on endosymbionts for nutrition, the capacity of endosymbionts to synthesize sterols may be important in establishing symbiont-host relationships in these chemosynthetic mussels.

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