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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51834. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051834. Epub 2012 Dec 14.

Unusual symbiotic cyanobacteria association in the genetically diverse intertidal marine sponge Hymeniacidon perlevis (Demospongiae, Halichondrida).

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CIMAR/CIIMAR, Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.


Cyanobacteria represent one of the most common members of the sponge-associated bacterial community and are abundant symbionts of coral reef ecosystems. In this study we used Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and molecular techniques (16S rRNA gene marker) to characterize the spatial distribution of cyanobionts in the widely dispersed marine intertidal sponge Hymeniacidon perlevis along the coast of Portugal (Atlantic Ocean). We described new sponge associated cyanobacterial morphotypes (Xenococcus-like) and we further observed Acaryochloris sp. as a sponge symbiont, previously only reported in association with ascidians. Besides these two unique cyanobacteria, H. perlevis predominantly harbored Synechococcus sp. and uncultured marine cyanobacteria. Our study supports the hypothesis that the community of sponge cyanobionts varies irrespective of the geographical location and is likely influenced by seasonal fluctuations. The observed multiple cyanobacterial association among sponges of the same host species over a large distance may be attributed to horizontal transfer of symbionts. This may explain the absence of a co-evolutionary pattern between the sponge host and its symbionts. Finally, in spite of the short geographic sampling distance covered, we observed an unexpected high intra-specific genetic diversity in H. perlevis using the mitochondrial genes ATP6 (π = 0.00177), COI (π = 0.00241) and intergenic spacer SP1 (π = 0.00277) relative to the levels of genetic variation of marine sponges elsewhere. Our study suggests that genotypic variation among the sponge host H. perlevis and the associated symbiotic cyanobacteria diversity may be larger than previously recognized.

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