In this study, we present a single-cell genomics approach for the functional characterization of the candidate phylum Poribacteria, members of which are nearly exclusively found in marine sponges. The microbial consortia of the Mediterranean sponge Aplysina aerophoba were singularized by fluorescence-activated cell sorting, and individual microbial cells were subjected to phi29 polymerase-mediated 'whole-genome amplification'. Pyrosequencing of a single amplified genome (SAG) derived from a member of the Poribacteria resulted in nearly 1.6 Mb of genomic information distributed among 554 contigs analyzed in this study. Approximately two-third of the poribacterial genome was sequenced. Our findings shed light on the functional properties and lifestyle of a possibly ancient bacterial symbiont of marine sponges. The Poribacteria are mixotrophic bacteria with autotrophic CO(2)-fixation capacities through the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. The cell wall is of Gram-negative origin. The Poribacteria produce at least two polyketide synthases (PKSs), one of which is the sponge-specific Sup-type PKS. Several putative symbiosis factors such as adhesins (bacterial Ig-like domains, lamininin G domain proteins), adhesin-related proteins (ankyrin, fibronectin type III) and tetratrico peptide repeat domain-encoding proteins were identified, which might be involved in mediating sponge-microbe interactions. The discovery of genes coding for 24-isopropyl steroids implies that certain fossil biomarkers used to date the origins of metazoan life on earth may possibly be of poribacterial origin. Single-cell genomic approaches, such as those shown herein, contribute to a better understanding of beneficial microbial consortia, of which most members are, because of the lack of cultivation, inaccessible by conventional techniques.