Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) provides an interesting species for the study of host-microbe interactions because it lacks the MHC II complex that is involved in the presentation of extracellular pathogens. Nonetheless, little is known about the diversity of its microbiome in natural populations. Here, we use high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA V4 region, amplified with the primer design of the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), to investigate the microbial composition in gut content and mucosa of 22 adult individuals from two coastal populations in Norway, located 470 km apart. We identify a core microbiome of 23 OTUs (97% sequence similarity) in all individuals that comprises 93% of the total number of reads. The most abundant orders are classified as Vibrionales, Fusobacteriales, Clostridiales, and Bacteroidales. While mucosal samples show significantly lower diversity than gut content samples, no differences in OTU community composition are observed between the two geographically separated populations. All specimens share a limited number of abundant OTUs. Moreover, the most abundant OTU consists of a single oligotype (order Vibrionales, genus Photobacterium) that represents nearly 50% of the reads in both locations. Our results suggest that these microbiomes comprise a limited number of species or that the EMP V4 primers do not yield sufficient resolution to confidently separate these communities. Our study contributes to a growing body of literature that shows limited spatial differentiation of the intestinal microbiomes in marine fish based on 16S rRNA sequencing, highlighting the need for multi-gene approaches to provide more insight into the diversity of these communities.
Keywords: 16S rRNA; Atlantic cod; Photobacterium; Vibrionales; gut microbiome; intestinal microbiome; microbiota.