© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in The ISME Journal 11 (2017): 186–200, doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.95.
Reef-building corals are well regarded not only for their obligate association with endosymbiotic algae, but also with prokaryotic symbionts, the specificity of which remains elusive. To identify the central microbial symbionts of corals, their specificity across species and conservation over geographic regions, we sequenced partial SSU ribosomal RNA genes of Bacteria and Archaea from the common corals Stylophora pistillata and Pocillopora verrucosa across 28 reefs within seven major geographical regions. We demonstrate that both corals harbor Endozoicomonas bacteria as their prevalent symbiont. Importantly, catalyzed reporter deposition–fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD–FISH) with Endozoicomonas-specific probes confirmed their residence as large aggregations deep within coral tissues. Using fine-scale genotyping techniques and single-cell genomics, we demonstrate that P. verrucosa harbors the same Endozoicomonas, whereas S. pistillata associates with geographically distinct genotypes. This specificity may be shaped by the different reproductive strategies of the hosts, potentially uncovering a pattern of symbiont selection that is linked to life history. Spawning corals such as P. verrucosa acquire prokaryotes from the environment. In contrast, brooding corals such as S. pistillata release symbiont-packed planula larvae, which may explain a strong regional signature in their microbiome. Our work contributes to the factors underlying microbiome specificity and adds detail to coral holobiont functioning.
This research was supported by a KAUST-WHOI Post-doctoral Partnership Award to MN and a KAUST-WHOI Special Academic Partnership Funding Reserve Award to CRV and AA. Research in this study was further supported by baseline research funds to CRV by KAUST and NSF award OCE-1233612 to AA. RR was supported by the ct-PIRE Project, Robert Lemelson Fellowship, Graduate Research Award (UCLA), Women Divers Hall of Fame—Sister Fund Conservation Award and a Betty and E. P. Franklin Grant in Tropical Biology and Conservation.
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