Marine Biology

, 163:176 | Cite as

Unexpected structured intraspecific diversity of thioautotrophic bacterial gill endosymbionts within the Lucinidae (Mollusca: Bivalvia)

  • Terry Brissac
  • Dominique Higuet
  • Olivier Gros
  • Hervé Merçot
Original paper


In chemoautotrophic associations, sequence comparison of 16S rRNA has been the method of choice to study bacterial diversity in the context of host/symbiont coevolution. However, the relative low rate of evolution of 16S rRNA has been shown to result in a diminished capacity to discriminate between closely related bacterial strains or species. Within chemoautotrophic associations, as described in several studies, the use of other genetic markers may reveal previously unobserved strain diversity among gill endosymbionts. Herein, we conducted a survey of symbionts harbored by six species within the Lucinidae family using five genetic markers (dnaE, gyrB, aprA, cbbL genes and the 16S–23S internal transcribed spacer). Thus, within the already described SoLuc_1 bacterial species shared by six host species we observed an obvious bacterial strain diversity. This diversity is structured in function of the geographic location of the hosts and not in function of ecological parameters or host phylogeny. Interestingly at the local level (same seagrass bed environment), we observed an unexpected specificity in host species/bacterial strain association (i.e., all individuals of the same host species harbor the same symbiotic sequence type). This specificity of association implied that there was a control of symbiont strain acquisition by the host, which was confirmed by a cross-infection experiment of starved adults performed in our study. Based upon our results and other evidence from the literature, we hypothesize that this pattern may be due to a “capture/escape” type antagonist evolution of the two partners.


Host Species Bacterial Diversity Shell Length Haplotype Network aprA 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank both reviewers for their helpful comments. We also thank Dr. Carlos J. Orihuela for English revision of the manuscript.


T.B. was funded as PhD Student by a MENRT grant (Ministère de l’Education Nationale de la Recherche et des Technologies).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Terry Brissac declares that he has no conflict of interest. Dominique Higuet declares that he has no conflict of interest. Olivier Gros declares that he has no conflict of interest. Hervé Merçot declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR 7138 – Evolution Paris-Seine, Equipe Evolution du génome eucaryote, C.N.R.S, Institut de Biologie Paris-SeineSorbonne Universités Paris VIParisFrance
  2. 2.UMR-CNRS-UPMC 7138 “Evolution Paris Seine”, Equipe Biologie de la mangrove, Département de Biologie, UFR des Sciences Exactes et NaturellesUniversité des AntillesPointe-À-Pitre CedexFrance
  3. 3.Department of Microbiology, School of MedicineUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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