Crown-of-thorns sea star Acanthaster cf. solaris has tissue-characteristic microbiomes with potential roles in health and reproduction

Hoj, Lone, Levy, Natalie, Baillie, Brett K., Clode, Peta L., Strohmaier, Raphael C., Siboni, Nachshon, Webster, Nicole S., Uthicke, Sven, and Bourne, David G. (2018) Crown-of-thorns sea star Acanthaster cf. solaris has tissue-characteristic microbiomes with potential roles in health and reproduction. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 84 (13).

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Outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns sea stars (CoTS; Acanthaster species complex) cause substantial coral loss; hence, there is considerable interest in developing prevention and control strategies. We characterized the microbiome of captive CoTS and assessed whether dysbiosis was evident in sea stars during a disease event. Most tissue types had a distinct microbiome. The exception was female gonads, in which the microbiomes were highly variable among individuals. Male gonads were dominated (> 97% of reads) by a single Mollicutes-related operational taxonomic unit (OTU). Detailed phylogenetic and microscopy analysis demonstrated the presence of a novel Spiroplasma-related bacterium in the spermatogenic layer. Body wall samples had high relative abundance (43 to 64% of reads) of spirochetes, likely corresponding to subcuticular symbionts reported from many echinoderms. Tube feet were characterized by Hyphomonadaceae (24 to 55% of reads). Pyloric cecal microbiomes had high alpha diversity, comprising many taxa commonly found in gastrointestinal systems. The order Oceanospirillales (genera Endozoicomonas and Kistimonas) was detected in all tissues. A microbiome shift occurred in diseased individuals although differences between tissue types were retained. The relative abundance of spirochetes was significantly reduced in diseased individuals. Kistimonas was present in all diseased individuals and significantly associated with diseased tube feet, but its role in disease causation is unknown. While Arcobacter was significantly associated with diseased tissues and Vibrionaceae increased in diversity, no single OTU was detected in all diseased individuals, suggesting opportunistic proliferation of these taxa in this case. This study shows that CoTS have tissue-characteristic bacterial communities and identifies taxa that could play a role in reproduction and host health.

IMPORTANCE Coral-eating crown-of-thorns sea stars (CoTS; Acanthaster species complex) are native to the Indo-Pacific, but during periodic population outbreaks they can reach extreme densities (> 1,000 starfish per hectare) and function as a pest species. On the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, CoTS have long been considered one of the major contributors to coral loss. There has been significant investment in a targeted control program using lethal injection, and there is interest in developing additional and complementary technologies that can increase culling efficiencies. The biology of CoTS has been studied extensively, but little is known about their associated microbiome. This cultivation-independent analysis of the CoTS microbiome provides a baseline for future analyses targeting the functional role of symbionts, the identification of pathogens, or the development of reproduction manipulators.

Item ID: 54599
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1098-5336
Keywords: Mollicutes, Spiroplasma, coral reefs, dysbiosis, echinoderms, microbiome, sea stars
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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Funders: AIMS@JCU, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: AIMS@JCU Pilot Research Grant, ARC FT20100480
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2018 07:56
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3107 Microbiology > 310703 Microbial ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9699 Other Environment > 969999 Environment not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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