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Microbial community associated with the colonial ascidian Cystodytes dellechiajei

Martínez-García, Manuel, Díaz-Valdés, Marta, Wanner, Gerhard, Ramos-Esplá, Alfonso, Antón, Josefa
Environmental microbiology 2007 v.9 no.2 pp. 521-534
Ascidiacea, Bacillariophyta, DNA libraries, Erythrobacter, Roseobacter, adults, autotrophs, bacteria, benthic zone, clones, collagen, complementary DNA, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, epiphytes, eukaryotic cells, fluorescence in situ hybridization, fluorescence microscopy, gamma-Proteobacteria, genes, larvae, marine environment, nucleotide sequences, photosynthesis, ribosomal RNA, transmission electron microscopy, Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean
The ascidian Cystodytes dellechiajei (Della Valle, 1877) (phylum Chordata, class Ascidiacea, family Polycitoridae) is a colonial tunicate that inhabits benthic rock environments in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Its life cycle has two phases, the adult sessile colony and the free-living larva. Both adult zooids and larvae are surrounded by a protective tunic that contains several eukaryotic cell lines, is composed mainly of acidic mucopolysacharides associated with collagen and elastin-like proteins, and is covered by a thin cuticle. The microbiota associated with the tunic tissues of adult colonies and larva of C. dellechiajei has been examined by optical, confocal and electron microscopy and by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), and 16S rRNA gene clone library analysis. Microscopy analyses indicated the presence inside the tunic, both for the adult and the larva, of a dense community of Bacteria while only the external surface of colony cuticle was colonized by diatoms, rodophyte algae and prokaryotic-like epiphytes. Transmission electron microscopy showed tunic eukaryotic cells that were engulfing and lysing bacteria. 16S rRNA gene analyses (DGGE and clone libraries) and FISH indicated that the community inside the tunic tissues of the adults and larvae was dominated by Alphaproteobacteria. Bacteria belonging to the phyla Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes were also detected in the adults. Many of the 16S rRNA gene sequences in the tunic tissues were related to known aerobic anoxygenic phototrophs (AAP), like Roseobacter sp. and Erythrobacter sp. In order to check whether the gene pufM, coding for the M subunit of the reaction centre complex of aerobic anoxygenic photosynthesis, was being expressed inside the ascidian tissues, two libraries, one for an adult colony and one for larva, of cDNA from the expressed pufM gene were also constructed. The sequences most frequently (64% for colony and 67% for larva) retrieved from these libraries presented > 90% aa identity with the pufM gene product of the Roseobacter-like group, a cluster of AAP widely detected in marine planktonic environments.