Two intracellular and cell type-specific bacterial symbionts in the placozoan Trichoplax H2

Gruber-Vodicka et al. (2019). Nature Microbiology 4 (9)
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Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Cell Biology Genetics Immunology Microbiology Microbiology (medical)
AbstractPlacozoa is an enigmatic phylum of simple, microscopic, marine metazoans1,2. Although intracellular bacteria have been found in all members of this phylum, almost nothing is known about their identity, location and interactions with their host3–6. We used metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequencing of single host individuals, plus metaproteomic and imaging analyses, to show that the placozoan Trichoplax sp. H2 lives in symbiosis with two intracellular bacteria. One symbiont forms an undescribed genus in the Midichloriaceae (Rickettsiales)7,8 and has a genomic repertoire similar to that of rickettsial parasites9,10, but does not seem to express key genes for energy parasitism. Correlative image analyses and three-dimensional electron tomography revealed that this symbiont resides in the rough endoplasmic reticulum of its host’s internal fibre cells. The second symbiont belongs to the Margulisbacteria, a phylum without cultured representatives and not known to form intracellular associations11–13. This symbiont lives in the ventral epithelial cells of Trichoplax, probably metabolizes algal lipids digested by its host and has the capacity to supplement the placozoan’s nutrition. Our study shows that one of the simplest animals has evolved highly specific and intimate associations with symbiotic, intracellular bacteria and highlights that symbioses can provide access to otherwise elusive microbial dark matter.
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