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ISME J. 2012 Aug;6(8):1515-25. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.1. Epub 2012 Feb 2.

Metaproteogenomic analysis of a community of sponge symbionts.

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Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation and School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, NSW, Australia.


Sponges harbour complex communities of diverse microorganisms, which have been postulated to form intimate symbiotic relationships with their host. Here we unravel some of these interactions by characterising the functional features of the microbial community of the sponge Cymbastela concentrica through a combined metagenomic and metaproteomic approach. We discover the expression of specific transport functions for typical sponge metabolites (for example, halogenated aromatics, dipeptides), which indicates metabolic interactions between the community and the host. We also uncover the simultaneous performance of aerobic nitrification and anaerobic denitrification, which would aid to remove ammonium secreted by the sponge. Our analysis also highlights the requirement for the microbial community to respond to variable environmental conditions and hence express an array of stress protection proteins. Molecular interactions between symbionts and their host might also be mediated by a set of expressed eukaryotic-like proteins and cell-cell mediators. Finally, some sponge-associated bacteria (for example, a Phyllobacteriaceae phylotype) appear to undergo an evolutionary adaptation process to the sponge environment as evidenced by active mobile genetic elements. Our data clearly show that a combined metaproteogenomic approach can provide novel information on the activities, physiology and interactions of sponge-associated microbial communities.

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