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Environ Microbiol. 2004 Mar;6(3):288-300.

Diverse microbial communities inhabit Antarctic sponges.

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Biological Sciences Department, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia 4810.


Genetic techniques were employed to investigate the archaeal, bacterial and eukaryotic communities associated with the Antarctic sponges Kirkpatrickia varialosa, Latrunculia apicalis, Homaxinella balfourensis, Mycale acerata and Sphaerotylus antarcticus. The phylogenetic affiliation of sponge-derived bacteria was assessed by 16S rRNA sequencing of cloned DNA fragments. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was used to determine the stability of bacterial associations within each sponge species and across spatial scales. Of the 150 archaeal clones from L. apicalis, K. varialosa and M. acerata screened by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, four unique operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were observed and all clustered closely together within the Crenarchaeota. Of the 250 sponge-derived bacterial clones screened by RFLP analysis, 61 were unique OTUs that were not detected during examination of 160 seawater-derived clones. Rarefaction analysis indicated that the clone libraries represented between 44 and 83% of the total estimated diversity. Phylogenetic analysis of sequence data revealed that the bacterial communities present in Antarctic sponges primarily clustered within the Gamma and Alpha proteobacteria and the Cytophaga/Flavobacterium of Bacteroidetes group. Bacterial DGGE analysis for replicate sponge and seawater samples at each Antarctic site revealed that bacterial communities were consistently detected within a particular species regardless of the collection site, with six bacterial bands exclusively associated with a single sponge species. Phylogenetic analysis of sequence data from eukaryotic DGGE analysis revealed that the communities present in Antarctic sponges fell into diatom and dinoflagellate clusters with many sequences having no known close relatives. In addition, seven eukaryotic sequences that were not detected in seawater samples or other sponge species were observed in K. varialosa.

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