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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Oct;74(19):6091-101. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01315-08. Epub 2008 Aug 1.

Molecular detection of fungal communities in the Hawaiian marine sponges Suberites zeteki and Mycale armata.

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  • 1Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.


Symbiotic microbes play a variety of fundamental roles in the health and habitat ranges of their hosts. While prokaryotes in marine sponges have been broadly characterized, the diversity of sponge-inhabiting fungi has barely been explored using molecular approaches. Fungi are an important component of many marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and they may be an ecologically significant group in sponge-microbe interactions. This study tested the feasibility of using existing fungal primers for molecular analysis of sponge-associated fungal communities. None of the eight selected primer pairs yielded satisfactory results in fungal rRNA gene or internal transcribed spacer (ITS) clone library constructions. However, 3 of 10 denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) primer sets, which were designed to preferentially amplify fungal rRNA gene or ITS regions from terrestrial environmental samples, were successfully amplified from fungal targets in marine sponges. DGGE analysis indicated that fungal communities differ among different sponge species (Suberites zeteki and Mycale armata) and also vary between sponges and seawater. Sequence analysis of DGGE bands identified 23 and 21 fungal species from each of the two sponge species S. zeteki and M. armata, respectively. These species were representatives of 11 taxonomic orders and belonged to the phyla of Ascomycota (seven orders) and Basidiomycota (four orders). Five of these taxonomic orders (Malasseziales, Corticiales, Polyporales, Agaricales, and Dothideomycetes et Chaetothyriomcetes incertae sedis) have now been identified for the first time in marine sponges. Seven and six fungal species from S. zeteki and M. armata, respectively, are potentially new species because of their low sequence identity (< or =98%) with their references in GenBank. Phylogenetic analysis indicated sponge-derived sequences were clustered into "marine fungus clades" with those from other marine habitats. This is the first report of molecular analysis of fungal communities in marine sponges, adding depth and dimension to our understanding of sponge-associated microbial communities.

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