Endosymbiotic calcifying bacteria across sponge species and oceans

Garate, LeireSureda, JanAgell, GemmaUriz, María Jesús. Scientific Reports 7 : 43674 (2017) DIGITAL CSIC

From an evolutionary point of view, sponges are ideal targets to study marine symbioses as they are the most ancient living metazoans and harbour highly diverse microbial communities. A recently discovered association between the sponge Hemimycale columella and an intracellular bacterium that generates large amounts of calcite spherules has prompted speculation on the possible role of intracellular bacteria in the evolution of the skeleton in early animals. To gain insight into this purportedly ancestral symbiosis, we investigated the presence of symbiotic bacteria in Mediterranean and Caribbean sponges. We found four new calcibacteria OTUs belonging to the SAR116 in two orders (Poecilosclerida and Clionaida) and three families of Demospongiae, two additional OTUs in cnidarians and one more in seawater (at 98.5% similarity). Using a calcibacteria targeted probe and CARD-FISH, we also found calcibacteria in Spirophorida and Suberitida and proved that the calcifying bacteria accumulated at the sponge periphery, forming a skeletal cortex, analogous to that of siliceous microscleres in other demosponges. Bacteria-mediated skeletonization is spread in a range of phylogenetically distant species and thus the purported implication of bacteria in skeleton formation and evolution of early animals gains relevance.