The Enigmatic Genome of an Obligate Ancient Spiroplasma Symbiont in a Hadal Holothurian

He et al. (2018). Applied and Environmental Microbiology 84 (1)
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Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Biotechnology Ecology Food Science
ABSTRACT Protective symbiosis has been reported in many organisms, but the molecular mechanisms of the mutualistic interactions between the symbionts and their hosts are unclear. Here, we sequenced the 424-kbp genome of “ Candidatus Spiroplasma holothuricola,” which dominated the hindgut microbiome of a sea cucumber, a major scavenger captured in the Mariana Trench (6,140 m depth). Phylogenetic relationships indicated that the dominant bacterium in the hindgut was derived from a basal group of Spiroplasma species. In this organism, the genes responsible for the biosynthesis of amino acids, glycolysis, and sugar transporters were lost, strongly suggesting endosymbiosis. The highly decayed genome consists of two chromosomes and harbors genes coding for proteolysis, microbial toxin, restriction-methylation systems, and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs), composed of three cas genes and 76 CRISPR spacers. The holothurian host is probably protected against invading viruses from sediments by the CRISPRs/Cas and restriction systems of the endosymbiotic spiroplasma. The protective endosymbiosis indicates the important ecological role of the ancient Spiroplasma symbiont in the maintenance of hadal ecosystems. IMPORTANCE Sea cucumbers are major inhabitants in hadal trenches. They collect microbes in surface sediment and remain tolerant against potential pathogenic bacteria and viruses. This study presents the genome of endosymbiotic spiroplasmas in the gut of a sea cucumber captured in the Mariana Trench. The extreme reduction of the genome and loss of essential metabolic pathways strongly support its endosymbiotic lifestyle. Moreover, a considerable part of the genome was occupied by a CRISPR/Cas system to provide immunity against viruses and antimicrobial toxin-encoding genes for the degradation of microbes. This novel species of Spiroplasma is probably an important protective symbiont for the sea cucumbers in the hadal zone.
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