Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2011 Oct 28;12:530.
doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-12-530.

Conjugating Effects of Symbionts and Environmental Factors on Gene Expression in Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Mussels

Free PMC article

Conjugating Effects of Symbionts and Environmental Factors on Gene Expression in Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Mussels

Isabelle Boutet et al. BMC Genomics. .
Free PMC article


Background: The deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus harbors thiotrophic and methanotrophic symbiotic bacteria in its gills. While the symbiotic relationship between this hydrothermal mussel and these chemoautotrophic bacteria has been described, the molecular processes involved in the cross-talking between symbionts and host, in the maintenance of the symbiois, in the influence of environmental parameters on gene expression, and in transcriptome variation across individuals remain poorly understood. In an attempt to understand how, and to what extent, this double symbiosis affects host gene expression, we used a transcriptomic approach to identify genes potentially regulated by symbiont characteristics, environmental conditions or both. This study was done on mussels from two contrasting populations.

Results: Subtractive libraries allowed the identification of about 1000 genes putatively regulated by symbiosis and/or environmental factors. Microarray analysis showed that 120 genes (3.5% of all genes) were differentially expressed between the Menez Gwen (MG) and Rainbow (Rb) vent fields. The total number of regulated genes in mussels harboring a high versus a low symbiont content did not differ significantly. With regard to the impact of symbiont content, only 1% of all genes were regulated by thiotrophic (SOX) and methanotrophic (MOX) bacteria content in MG mussels whereas 5.6% were regulated in mussels collected at Rb. MOX symbionts also impacted a higher proportion of genes than SOX in both vent fields. When host transcriptome expression was analyzed with respect to symbiont gene expression, it was related to symbiont quantity in each field.

Conclusions: Our study has produced a preliminary description of a transcriptomic response in a hydrothermal vent mussel host of both thiotrophic and methanotrophic symbiotic bacteria. This model can help to identify genes involved in the maintenance of symbiosis or regulated by environmental parameters. Our results provide evidence of symbiont effect on transcriptome regulation, with differences related to type of symbiont, even though the relative percentage of genes involved remains limited. Differences observed between the vent site indicate that environment strongly influences transcriptome regulation and impacts both activity and relative abundance of each symbiont. Among all these genes, those participating in recognition, the immune system, oxidative stress, and energy metabolism constitute new promising targets for extended studies on symbiosis and the effect of environmental parameters on the symbiotic relationships in B. azoricus.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Quantification of symbionts in the mussels B. azoricus collected at the three vent fields Menez Gwen (MG, n = 25), Lucky Strike (LS, n = 30) and Rainbow (Rb, n = 25). Symbiont quantities in mussels used in subtractive library design are presented individually. S+, high SOX content (n = 3 ind from MG); SM-, low SOX and low MOX content (n = 5 ind from MG, LS and Rb); M-, low MOX content (n = 3 ind from Rb); M+, high MOX content (n = 3 ind from Rb). Quantities of SOX and MOX are given as relative quantity in an arbitrary unit.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Repartition of B. azoricus annotated proteins into the GO categories. (a) Biological process, (b) Molecular function, (c) Cellular component. S+, high SOX content; M+, high MOX content; M-, low MOX content; SM-, low SOX and MOX content.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Gene expression differentially regulated between Menez Gwen and Rainbow vent fields according to SAM results obtained with TmeV.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 7 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Moran NA. Symbiosis as an adaptive process and source of phenotypic complexity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2007;104(Suppl 1):8627–8633. - PMC - PubMed
    1. Margulis L, Sagan D. Acquiring genomes: A theory of the origins of species. Basic Books, New York; 2002.
    1. Dubilier N, Bergin C, Lott C. Symbiotic diversity in marine animals: the art of harnessing chemosynthesis. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2008;6:725–740. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1992. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Sanchez S, Hourdez S, Lallier FH. Identification of proteins involved in the functioning of Riftia pachyptila symbiosis by Subtractive Suppression Hybridization. BMC Genomics. 2007;8:337. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-8-337. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. deBoer ML, Krupp DA, Weis MV. Proteomic and transcriptional analyses of coral larvae newly engaged in symbiosis with dinoflagellates. Comp Biochem Physiol. 2007;2D:63–73. - PubMed

Publication types