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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 May;63(5):1721-4.

Subcuticular bacteria from the brittle star Ophiactis balli (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) represent a new lineage of extracellular marine symbionts in the alpha subdivision of the class Proteobacteria.

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  • 1Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban, Scotland.


Many species of echinoderms, in all five extant classes, contain subcuticular bacterial symbionts (SCB). The role of these extracellular symbionts and the nature of the relationship remain unclear. We have sequenced 16S rRNA genes from symbionts to determine their phylogenetic affinities. Symbionts of an ophiuroid, Ophiactis balli, appear closely related to bacteria within the alpha group of the class Proteobacteria, including intracellular endosymbionts and pathogens. SCB are clearly of separate origin from other documented major groups of marine symbiotic bacteria.

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