Microbes from Mum: symbiont transmission in the tropical reef sponge Ianthella basta

Engelberts, J. Pamela; Wahab, Muhammad Azmi Abdul; Maldonado, Manuel; Rix, Laura; Marangon, Emma; Robbins, Steven J.; Wagner, Michael; Webster, Nicole.  ISME Communications 2 : 90 (2022)  DIGITAL CSIC  

Most marine sponge species harbour distinct communities of microorganisms which contribute to various aspects of their host’s health and physiology. In addition to their key roles in nutrient transformations and chemical defence, these symbiotic microbes can shape sponge phenotype by mediating important developmental stages and influencing the environmental tolerance of the host. However, the characterisation of each microbial taxon throughout a sponge’s life cycle remains challenging, with several sponge species hosting up to 3000 distinct microbial species. Ianthella basta, an abundant broadcast spawning species in the Indo-Pacific, is an emerging model for sponge symbiosis research as it harbours only three dominant symbionts: a Thaumarchaeotum, a Gammaproteobacterium, and an Alphaproteobacterium. Here, we successfully spawned Ianthella basta, characterised its mode of reproduction, and used 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, fluorescence in situ hybridisation, and transmission electron microscopy to characterise the microbial community throughout its life cycle. We confirmed I. basta as being gonochoric and showed that the three dominant symbionts, which together make up >90% of the microbiome according to 16S rRNA gene abundance, are vertically transmitted from mother to offspring by a unique method involving encapsulation in the peri-oocytic space, suggesting an obligate relationship between these microbes and their host.