Functional gene composition and metabolic potential of deep-sea coral-associated microbial communities

Coral Reefs
By: , and 



Over the past decade, an abundance of 16S rRNA gene surveys have provided microbiologists with data regarding the prokaryotes present in a coral-associated microbial community. Functional gene studies that provide information regarding what those microbes might do are fewer, particularly for non-tropical corals. Using the GeoChip 5.0S microarray, we present a functional gene study of microbiomes from five species of cold-water corals collected from depths of 296–1567 m. These species included two octocorals, Acanthogorgia aspera and Acanthogorgia spissa, and three stony corals: Desmophyllum dianthus, Desmophyllum pertusum (formerly Lophelia pertusa), and Enallopsammia profunda. A total of 24,281 gene sequences (representing different microbial taxa) encoding for 383 functional gene families and representing 9 metabolic gene categories were identified. Gene categories included metabolism of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, as well as virulence, organic remediation, metal homeostasis, secondary metabolism and phylogeny. We found that microbiomes from Acanthogorgia spp. were the most functionally distinct but also least diverse compared against those from stony corals. Desmophyllum spp. microbiomes were more similar to each other than to E. profunda. Of 383 total gene families detected in this study, less than 20% were significantly different among these deep-water coral species. Similarly, out of 59 metabolic sub-categories for which we were able to make a direct comparison to microbiomes of tropical corals, only 7 were notably different: anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), chitin degradation, and dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) degradation, all of which had higher representations in deep-water corals; and chromium homeostasis/resistance, copper homeostasis/resistance, antibiotic resistance, and methanogenesis, all of which had higher representation in tropical corals. This implies a broad-scale convergence of the microbial functional genes present within the coral holobiont, independent of coral species, depth, symbiont status, and morphology.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Functional gene composition and metabolic potential of deep-sea coral-associated microbial communities
Series title Coral Reefs
DOI 10.1007/s00338-023-02409-0
Volume 42
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 1011
Last page 1023
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