, Volume 23, Issue 12, pp 1139-1145

Fatty acids as biological markers for bacterial symbionts in sponges

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Analyses of fatty acids with carbon numbers between C12 and C22 are reported for five Great Barrier Reef sponges. These analyses indicate that phototrophic cyanobacterial symbionts (blue-green algae) present in three of the sponges are chemically distinct, whereas the other two sponges do not contain cyanobacterial symbionts. All the sponges contain other, nonphototrophic bacteria. The fatty acid analyses indicate that the nonphototrophic bacterial populations present in the different sponges are distinct in both their chemical compositions and their abundances. Nonphototrophic bacteria are estimated to account for between 60 and 350 μg/g (extractable fatty acids:tissue wet weight), whereas cyanobacteria account for between 10 and 910 μg/g. One sponge (Pseudaxinyssa sp.) contains a relatively large amount of the isoprenoid acid, 4,8,12-trimethyltridecanoic acid; this acid is presumed to be derived from phytol, a degradation product of chlorophyll. This sponge also contains relatively large amounts of the nonmethylene interrupted fatty acid, octadeca-5,9-dienoic acid. Analyses of interior and cyanobacteria-rich surface tissues of this sponge indicate that these two acids are probably not associated with the symbiotic cyanobacteria.

This manuscript is Part 21 in the Stanford series “Phospholipid Studies of Marine Organisms.” For Part 20, see reference 42.