Microbial Ecology

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 243–256 | Cite as

Variations in Microbial Diversity and Metabolite Profiles of the Tropical Marine Sponge Xestospongia muta with Season and Depth

  • Marcela Villegas-Plazas
  • Melissa L Wos-Oxley
  • Juan A. Sanchez
  • Dietmar H. Pieper
  • Olivier P. Thomas
  • Howard JuncaEmail author
Host Microbe Interactions


Xestospongia muta is among the most emblematic sponge species inhabiting coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea. Besides being the largest sponge species growing in the Caribbean, it is also known to produce secondary metabolites. This study aimed to assess the effect of depth and season on the symbiotic bacterial dynamics and major metabolite profiles of specimens of X. muta thriving in a tropical marine biome (Portobelo Bay, Panamá), which allow us to determine whether variability patterns are similar to those reported for subtropical latitudes. The bacterial assemblages were characterized using Illumina deep-sequencing and metabolomic profiles using UHPLC-DAD-ELSD from five depths (ranging 9–28 m) across two seasons (spring and autumn). Diverse symbiotic communities, representing 24 phyla with a predominance of Proteobacteria and Chloroflexi, were found. Although several thousands of OTUs were determined, most of them belong to the rare biosphere and only 23 to a core community. There was a significant difference between the structure of the microbial communities in respect to season (autumn to spring), with a further significant difference between depths only in autumn. This was partially mirrored in the metabolome profile, where the overall metabolite composition did not differ between seasons, but a significant depth gradient was observed in autumn. At the phyla level, Cyanobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Spirochaete showed a mild-moderate correlation with the metabolome profile. The metabolomic profiles were mainly characterized by known brominated polyunsaturated fatty acids. This work presents findings about the composition and dynamics of the microbial assemblages of X. muta expanding and confirming current knowledge about its remarkable diversity and geographic variability as observed in this tropical marine biome.


Xestospongia muta Marine sponges Holobiont Symbiotic bacterial communities Depth gradient Season 16S rRNA gene Illumina deep-sequencing Metabolomics 



We thank the additional support from Dr. Regis Guillaume, Embassy of France in Colombia, and Raúl de León from Dive Adventure Panama and Portobelo Dive Center for his guidance and collaboration during the dive sampling, to Iris Plumeier and Silke Kahl for excellent technical assistance and to the members of the BIOMMAR research group for their helpful technical advices.

Authors’ Contributions

MV analyzed and interpreted the microbial community data and wrote the manuscript. OT analyzed and interpreted the metabolomic data. MO supported statistical analyses. HJ conceptualized, analyzed the results, and supervised the study. JS contributed with the experimental design and DP with the sequencing and analyzing the results. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


The authors would like to thank financial support granted by the European Commission to EC/FP7 research project consortium MAGICPAH (KBBE-2009-245226), to the Colombian Administrative Department for Science, Technology and Innovation - Colciencias for financial support through grants EcosNord-Colciencias (Convocatoria 652-2014) “International cooperation and research mobility grants in marine research between Colombia and France 2015-2017” and “Joven Investigador” 2012 fellowship to M. Villegas-Plazas and to Universidad de los Andes for the MSc scholarship to M. Villegas-Plazas.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

Not applicable

Consent for Publication

Not applicable

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RG Microbial Ecology: Metabolism, Genomics & Evolution, Div Ecogenomics & HolobiontsMicrobiomas FoundationChíaColombia
  2. 2.Microbial Interactions and Processes Research GroupHelmholtz Centre for Infection ResearchBraunschweigGermany
  3. 3.Honorary Research AssociateSouth Australian MuseumAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Laboratorio de Biología Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Departmento de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad de los AndesBogotáColombia
  5. 5.Marine Biodiscovery, School of Chemistry and Ryan InstituteNational University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway)GalwayIreland

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