Symbiont Identity Impacts the Microbiome and Volatilome of a Model Cnidarian-Dinoflagellate Symbiosis

Maggie Wuerz, Caitlin A. Lawson, Clinton A Oakley, Malcolm Possell, Shaun P. Wilkinson, Arthur R. Grossman, Virginia M. Weis, David Suggett, Simon K. Davy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Scopus citations


    The symbiosis between cnidarians and dinoflagellates underpins the success of reef-building corals in otherwise nutrient-poor habitats. Alterations to symbiotic state can perturb metabolic homeostasis and thus alter the release of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). While BVOCs can play important roles in metabolic regulation and signalling, how the symbiotic state affects BVOC output remains unexplored. We therefore characterised the suite of BVOCs that comprise the volatilome of the sea anemone Exaiptasia diaphana (‘Aiptasia’) when aposymbiotic and in symbiosis with either its native dinoflagellate symbiont Breviolum minutum or the non-native symbiont Durusdinium trenchii. In parallel, the bacterial community structure in these different symbiotic states was fully characterised to resolve the holobiont microbiome. Based on rRNA analyses, 147 unique amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) were observed across symbiotic states. Furthermore, the microbiomes were distinct across the different symbiotic states: bacteria in the family Vibrionaceae were the most abundant in aposymbiotic anemones; those in the family Crocinitomicaceae were the most abundant in anemones symbiotic with D. trenchii; and anemones symbiotic with B. minutum had the highest proportion of low-abundance ASVs. Across these different holobionts, 142 BVOCs were detected and classified into 17 groups based on their chemical structure, with BVOCs containing multiple functional groups being the most abundant. Isoprene was detected in higher abundance when anemones hosted their native symbiont, and dimethyl sulphide was detected in higher abundance in the volatilome of both Aiptasia-Symbiodiniaceae combinations relative to aposymbiotic anemones. The volatilomes of aposymbiotic anemones and anemones symbiotic with B. minutum were distinct, while the volatilome of anemones symbiotic with D. trenchii overlapped both of the others. Collectively, our results are consistent with previous reports that D. trenchii produces a metabolically sub-optimal symbiosis with Aiptasia, and add to our understanding of how symbiotic cnidarians, including corals, may respond to climate change should they acquire novel dinoflagellate partners.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1014
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - Jul 17 2023

    Bibliographical note

    KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-07-21
    Acknowledgements: This work was funded by a Victoria University doctoral scholarship awarded to M.W. and the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi Marsden Fund (19-VUW-086, awarded to S.K.D., A.R.G., C.A.O., D.J.S. and V.M.W), and the contributions of D.J.S. and C.A.L. were supported by an Australian Research Council discovery project (DP200100091, awarded to D.J.S.). We thank the three anonymous reviewers whose comments contributed to the enhancement of our work.

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
    • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
    • General Immunology and Microbiology


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