The Relative Abundance and Transcriptional Activity of Marine Sponge-Associated Microorganisms Emphasizing Groups Involved in Sulfur Cycle
During the last decades, our knowledge about the activity of sponge-associated microorganisms and their contribution to biogeochemical cycling has gradually increased. Functional groups involved in carbon and nitrogen metabolism are well documented, whereas knowledge about microorganisms involved in the sulfur cycle is still limited. Both sulfate reduction and sulfide oxidation has been detected in the cold water sponge Geodia barretti from Korsfjord in Norway, and with specimens from this site, the present study aims to identify extant versus active sponge-associated microbiota with focus on sulfur metabolism. Comparative analysis of small subunit ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) gene (DNA) and transcript (complementary DNA (cDNA)) libraries revealed profound differences. The transcript library was predominated by Chloroflexi despite their low abundance in the gene library. An opposite result was found for Acidobacteria. Proteobacteria were detected in both libraries with representatives of the Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria related to clades with presumably thiotrophic bacteria from sponges and other marine invertebrates. Sequences that clustered with sponge-associated Deltaproteobacteria were remotely related to cultivated sulfate-reducing bacteria. The microbes involved in sulfur cycling were identified by the functional gene aprA (adenosine-5′-phosphosulfate reductase) and its transcript. Of the aprA sequences (DNA and cDNA), 87 % affiliated with sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. They clustered with Alphaproteobacteria and with clades of deep-branching Gammaproteobacteria. The remaining sequences clustered with sulfate-reducing Archaea of the phylum Euryarchaeota. These results indicate an active role of yet uncharacterized Bacteria and Archaea in the sponge’s sulfur cycle.