Bacterial Communities Associated with the Ctenophores Mnemiopsis leidyi and Beroe ovata

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ctenophore, bacterial community, 16S, T-RFLP, temporal

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Residing in a phylum of their own, ctenophores are gelatinous zooplankton that drift through the ocean's water column. Although ctenophores are known to be parasitized by a variety of eukaryotes, no studies have examined their bacterial associates. This study describes the bacterial communities associated with the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi and its natural predator Beroe ovata in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA. Investigations using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and cloning and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes demonstrated that ctenophore bacterial communities were distinct from the surrounding water. In addition, each ctenophore genus contained a unique microbiota. Ctenophore samples contained fewer bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) by T-RFLP and lower diversity communities by 16S rRNA gene sequencing than the water column. Both ctenophore genera contained sequences related to bacteria previously described in marine invertebrates, and sequences similar to a sea anemone pathogen were abundant in B. ovata. Temporal sampling revealed that the ctenophore-associated bacterial communities varied over time, with no single OTU detected at all time points. This is the first report of distinct and dynamic bacterial communities associated with ctenophores, suggesting that these microbial consortia may play important roles in ctenophore ecology. Future work needs to elucidate the functional roles and mode of acquisition of these bacteria.

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FEMS Microbiology Ecology, v. 82, issue 1, p. 90-101