, Volume 138, Issue 4, pp 843-851

The culturable microbial community of the Great Barrier Reef sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile is dominated by an α-Proteobacterium

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Abstract

The microbial community cultured from the marine sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile Thompson et al. is dominated by a single bacterium, designated strain NW001. Sequence analysis of 1212 bp of the16S rRNA gene of strain NW001 indicates that it is a member of the α-subgroup of the class Proteobacteria. The association between this bacterium and its host sponge was observed in healthy R. odorabile collected from six different reefs in the Great Barrier Reef representing a geographic distance of 460 km, and in four collections in different seasons in 1997–1998 at Davies Reef (18°49.6′S; 147°34.49′E). The proportion of colonies of strain NW001 in samples from R. odorabile, expressed as a percentage of the total heterotrophic bacterial colony count, showed no significant spatial (range: 81–98%) or temporal differences (range: 81–99%), although colony counts of strain NW001 varied by up to two orders of magnitude between reef sites and sampling periods. The location of strain NW001 within the sponge mesohyl was visualized by in situ hybridization, using fluorescently labeled probes based on the 16S rRNA gene sequence of this strain. Cells of strain NW001 surround the choanocyte chambers, suggesting that these bacteria may play a role in nutrient uptake by the sponge. The absence of strain NW001 from corresponding seawater samples indicates that it has a specific, intimate relationship with R. odorabile and is not being utilized as a food source. A unique cyanobacterium related to the genera Leptolyngbya and Plectonema was also isolated from R. odorabile and characterized by 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

Received: 19 May 2000 / Accepted: 18 November 2000