Single-cell genomics reveals complex carbohydrate degradation patterns in poribacterial symbionts of marine sponges

ISME J. 2013 Dec;7(12):2287-300. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.111. Epub 2013 Jul 11.


Many marine sponges are hosts to dense and phylogenetically diverse microbial communities that are located in the extracellular matrix of the animal. The candidate phylum Poribacteria is a predominant member of the sponge microbiome and its representatives are nearly exclusively found in sponges. Here we used single-cell genomics to obtain comprehensive insights into the metabolic potential of individual poribacterial cells representing three distinct phylogenetic groups within Poribacteria. Genome sizes were up to 5.4 Mbp and genome coverage was as high as 98.5%. Common features of the poribacterial genomes indicated that heterotrophy is likely to be of importance for this bacterial candidate phylum. Carbohydrate-active enzyme database screening and further detailed analysis of carbohydrate metabolism suggested the ability to degrade diverse carbohydrate sources likely originating from seawater and from the host itself. The presence of uronic acid degradation pathways as well as several specific sulfatases provides strong support that Poribacteria degrade glycosaminoglycan chains of proteoglycans, which are important components of the sponge host matrix. Dominant glycoside hydrolase families further suggest degradation of other glycoproteins in the host matrix. We therefore propose that Poribacteria are well adapted to an existence in the sponge extracellular matrix. Poribacteria may be viewed as efficient scavengers and recyclers of a particular suite of carbon compounds that are unique to sponges as microbial ecosystems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / genetics*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Genomics
  • Phylogeny
  • Porifera / microbiology*
  • Seawater / microbiology