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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2014 Sep;89(3):679-90. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12369. Epub 2014 Jul 9.

Quantification of bacterial and archaeal symbionts in high and low microbial abundance sponges using real-time PCR.

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Department of Botany II, Julius-von-Sachs Institute for Biological Sciences, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Germany.


In spite of considerable insights into the microbial diversity of marine sponges, quantitative information on microbial abundances and community composition remains scarce. Here, we established qPCR assays for the specific quantification of four bacterial phyla of representative sponge symbionts as well as the kingdoms Eubacteria and Archaea. We could show that the 16S rRNA gene numbers of Archaea, Chloroflexi, and the candidate phylum Poribacteria were 4-6 orders of magnitude higher in high microbial abundance (HMA) than in low microbial abundance (LMA) sponges and that actinobacterial 16S rRNA gene numbers were 1-2 orders higher in HMA over LMA sponges, while those for Cyanobacteria were stable between HMA and LMA sponges. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of Aplysina aerophoba tissue sections confirmed the numerical dominance of Chloroflexi, which was followed by Poribacteria. Archaeal and actinobacterial cells were detected in much lower numbers. By use of fluorescence-activated cell sorting as a primer- and probe-independent approach, the dominance of Chloroflexi, Proteobacteria, and Poribacteria in A. aerophoba was confirmed. Our study provides new quantitative insights into the microbiology of sponges and contributes to a better understanding of the HMA/LMA dichotomy.


fluorescence in situ hybridization; marine sponges; microbial symbionts; quantitative real-time PCR; single-cell sorting

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