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Biol Bull. 2012 Aug;223(1):155-66.

Investigation into the physiologies of Aeromonas veronii in vitro and inside the digestive tract of the medicinal leech using RNA-seq.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269, USA.


Host-associated microbial communities are widespread in nature and vital to the health and fitness of the host. Deciphering the physiology of the microbiome in vivo is critical to understanding the molecular basis of the symbiosis. Recently, the development and application of high-throughput sequencing techniques, particularly RNA-seq, for studying microbial communities has enabled researchers to address not only which microbes are present in a given community but also how the community functions. For microbes that can also be cultivated in the laboratory, RNA-seq provides the opportunity to identify genes that are differentially expressed during symbiosis by comparing in vitro to in vivo transcriptomes. In the current study, we used RNA-seq to identify genes expressed by the digestive-tract microbiome of the medicinal leech, Hirudo verbana, and by one of the two dominant symbionts, Aeromonas veronii, in a rich medium. We used a comparative approach to identify genes differentially expressed during symbiosis and gain insight into the symbiont's physiology in vivo. Notable findings include evidence for the symbionts experiencing environmental stress, performing arginine catabolism, and expressing noncoding RNAs that are implicated in stationary phase survival, a state in which A. veronii persists for months within the host.

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