Current research posits that all multicellular organisms live in symbioses with associated microorganisms and form so-called metaorganisms or holobionts. Cnidarian metaorganisms are of specific interest given that stony corals provide the foundation of the globally threatened coral reef ecosystems. To gain first insight into viruses associated with the coral model system Aiptasia (sensu Exaiptasia pallida), we analyzed an existing RNA-Seq dataset of aposymbiotic, partially populated, and fully symbiotic Aiptasia CC7 anemones with Symbiodinium. Our approach included the selective removal of anemone host and algal endosymbiont sequences and subsequent microbial sequence annotation. Of a total of 297 million raw sequence reads, 8.6 million (∼3%) remained after host and endosymbiont sequence removal. Of these, 3,293 sequences could be assigned as of viral origin. Taxonomic annotation of these sequences suggests that Aiptasia is associated with a diverse viral community, comprising 116 viral taxa covering 40 families. The viral assemblage was dominated by viruses from the families Herpesviridae (12.00%), Partitiviridae (9.93%), and Picornaviridae (9.87%). Despite an overall stable viral assemblage, we found that some viral taxa exhibited significant changes in their relative abundance when Aiptasia engaged in a symbiotic relationship with Symbiodinium. Elucidation of viral taxa consistently present across all conditions revealed a core virome of 15 viral taxa from 11 viral families, encompassing many viruses previously reported as members of coral viromes. Despite the non-random selection of viral genetic material due to the nature of the sequencing data analyzed, our study provides a first insight into the viral community associated with Aiptasia. Similarities of the Aiptasia viral community with those of corals corroborate the application of Aiptasia as a model system to study coral holobionts. Further, the change in abundance of certain viral taxa across different symbiotic states suggests a role of viruses in the algal endosymbiosis, but the functional significance of this remains to be determined.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Jan D. Brüwer was funded by a Visiting Student Research Program (VSRP) fellowship awarded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Additional supported was provided by baseline funds from KAUST to Christian R. Voolstra. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.