Pyrosequencing reveals highly diverse and species-specific microbial communities in sponges from the Red Sea

Onon Lee, Yong Wang, Jiangke Yang, Feras Fawzi Lafi, Abdulaziz M. Al-Suwailem, Pei-Yuan Qian

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232 Scopus citations


Marine sponges are associated with a remarkable array of microorganisms. Using a tag pyrosequencing technology, this study was the first to investigate in depth the microbial communities associated with three Red Sea sponges, Hyrtios erectus, Stylissa carteri and Xestospongia testudinaria. We revealed highly diverse sponge-associated bacterial communities with up to 1000 microbial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and richness estimates of up to 2000 species. Altogether, 26 bacterial phyla were detected from the Red Sea sponges, 11 of which were absent from the surrounding sea water and 4 were recorded in sponges for the first time. Up to 100 OTUs with richness estimates of up to 300 archaeal species were revealed from a single sponge species. This is by far the highest archaeal diversity ever recorded for sponges. A non-negligible proportion of unclassified reads was observed in sponges. Our results demonstrated that the sponge-associated microbial communities remained highly consistent in the same sponge species from different locations, although they varied at different degrees among different sponge species. A significant proportion of the tag sequences from the sponges could be assigned to one of the sponge-specific clusters previously defined. In addition, the sponge-associated microbial communities were consistently divergent from those present in the surrounding sea water. Our results suggest that the Red Sea sponges possess highly sponge-specific or even sponge-species-specific microbial communities that are resistant to environmental disturbance, and much of their microbial diversity remains to be explored. © 2011 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-664
Number of pages15
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 18 2010

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): SA-C0040/UK-C0016
Acknowledgements: We thank HC Chung, YH Wong, M Li and JP Ren from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), D Lau from Baptist University of Hong Kong and the technical team from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) for technical help during sample collection. We also thank Professor Rob von Soest, Zoological Museum, University of Amsterdam, for identification of sponges, and HC Chung, K Cheng and YK Tam, HKUST, for assistance in nutrient analysis. We are grateful to Professor MW Taylor, University of Auckland, for providing an ARB database containing the alignment of all sponge-derived sequences for comparison. This publication is based on the work supported by an award (SA-C0040/UK-C0016) made by KAUST to P-Y Qian.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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