Marine Biotechnology

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 131–143 | Cite as

Functional Transcripts Indicate Phylogenetically Diverse Active Ammonia-Scavenging Microbiota in Sympatric Sponges

  • Guofang Feng
  • Wei Sun
  • Fengli Zhang
  • Sandi Orlić
  • Zhiyong Li
Original Article


Symbiotic ammonia scavengers contribute to effective removal of ammonia in sponges. However, the phylogenetic diversity and in situ activity of ammonia-scavenging microbiota between different sponge species are poorly addressed. Here, transcribed ammonia monooxygenase genes (amoA), hydrazine synthase genes (hzsA), and glutamine synthetase genes (glnA) were analyzed to reveal the active ammonia-scavenging microbiota in the sympatric sponges Theonella swinhoei, Plakortis simplex, and Phakellia fusca, and seawater. Archaeal amoA and bacterial glnA transcripts rather than bacterial amoA, hzsA, and archaeal glnA transcripts were detected in the investigated sponges and seawater. The transcribed amoA genes were ascribed to two Thaumarchaeota ecotypes, while the transcribed glnA genes were interspersed among the lineages of Cyanobacteria, Tectomicrobia, Poribacteria, Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma-, and Epsilonproteobacteria. In addition, transcribed abundances of archaeal amoA and bacterial glnA genes in these sponges have been quantified, showing significant variation among the investigated sponges and seawater. The transcriptome-based qualitative and quantitative analyses clarified the different phylogenetic diversity and transcription expression of functional genes related to microbially mediated ammonia scavenging in different sympatric sponges, contributing to the understanding of in situ active ecological functions of sponge microbial symbionts in holobiont nitrogen cycling.


Sponge Ammonia-oxidizing archaea Ammonia-assimilating bacteria Functional transcript RT-qPCR assays 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41776138 and U1301131), the 6th China-Croatia Science and Technology cooperation committee program (No. 6–13), and Minhang Leading Talent Project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10126_2018_9797_MOESM1_ESM.docx (350 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 350 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guofang Feng
    • 1
  • Wei Sun
    • 1
  • Fengli Zhang
    • 1
  • Sandi Orlić
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zhiyong Li
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Microbial Metabolism, School of Life Sciences and BiotechnologyShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Ruđer Bošković InstituteZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.Center of Excellence for Science and Technology–Integration of Mediterranean region–STIMZagrebCroatia

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