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Biol Bull. 2012 Aug;223(1):138-54.

16S rDNA-based metagenomic analysis of bacterial diversity associated with two populations of the kleptoplastic sea slug Elysia chlorotica and its algal prey Vaucheria litorea.

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University of Maine, Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, Orono, Maine 04469, USA.


The molluscan sea slug Elysia chlorotica is best known for its obligate endosymbiosis with chloroplasts (= kleptoplasty) from its algal prey Vaucheria litorea and its ability to sustain itself photoautotrophically for several months. This unusual photosynthetic sea slug also harbors an array of undescribed bacteria, which may contribute to the long-term success of the symbiosis. Here, we utilized 16S rDNA-based metagenomic analyses to characterize the microbial diversity associated with two populations of E. chlorotica from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA. Animals were examined immediately after collection from their native environments, after being starved of their algal prey for several months, and after being bred in the laboratory (second-generation sea slugs) to characterize the effect of varying environmental and culturing conditions on the associated bacteria. Additionally, the microbiome of the algal prey, laboratory-cultured V. litorea, was analyzed to determine whether the laboratory-bred sea slugs obtained bacteria from their algal food source during development. Bacterial profiles varied between populations and among all conditions except for the F2 laboratory-bred samples, which were similar in diversity and abundance, but not to the algal microbiome. Alpha-, beta-, and gamma-proteobacteria dominated all of the samples along with Actinobacteria, Bacilli, Flavobacteria, and Sphingobacteria. Bacteria capable of polysaccharide digestion and photosynthesis, as well as putative nitrogen fixation, vitamin B(12) production, and natural product biosynthesis were associated with the sea slug and algal samples.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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