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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2007 Jan;59(1):81-94.

Bacterial community structure associated with the Antarctic soft coral, Alcyonium antarcticum.

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Biological Sciences Department, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


The structure and composition of microbial communities inhabiting the soft coral Alcyonium antarcticum were investigated across three differentially contaminated sites within McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Diverse microbial communities were revealed at all sites using culture-based analysis, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), 16S rRNA gene clone-library analysis, and FISH. Phylogenetic analysis of isolates and retrieved sequences demonstrated close affiliation with known psychrophiles from the Antarctic environment and high similarity to Gammaproteobacteria clades of sponge-associated microorganisms. The majority of bacteria detected with all techniques reside within the Gammaproteobacteria, although other phylogenetic groups including Alpha- and Betaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Actinomycetales, Planctomycetes, and Chlorobi and bacteria from the functional group of sulfate-reducing bacteria were also present. Multivariate (nMDS) analysis of DGGE banding patterns and principal component analysis of quantitative FISH data revealed no distinct differences in community composition between differentially contaminated sites. Rather, conserved coral-associated bacterial groups were observed within and between sites, providing evidence to support specific coral-microbial interactions. This is the first investigation of microbial communities associated with Antarctic soft corals, and the results suggest that spatially stable microbial associations exist across an environmental impact gradient.

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