The Microbiome of Two Estuarine Sponge Species and their Potential Dehalogenation Activities

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Sponges are diverse and functionally important members of marine, freshwater and estuarine environments, harbouring abundant and complex microbial communities as part of their often species-specific microbiome. The host specificity and functioning of these microbial communities may be driven by ecological factors as well as compounds produced and bioaccumulated in the sponge including a wide range of halogenated secondary metabolites that perform a protective role for the sponge host. Currently there is a paucity of studies on esturine temperate sponges and their associated microbiomes. In this study metataxonomic and metagenomic sequencing of two estuarine sponge species (Hymeniacidon perlevis and Suberites massa) was performed during two different seasonal temperatures. Host specific microbiomes were observed within each species which were stable across seasonal changes, with some fluctuations detected in S. massa. Furthermore, metagenomic investigation demonstrated several potential organohalide respiring bacteria within the microbiome of H. perlevis, including obligate species such as Dehalococcoides and facultative species such as Desulfoluna as well as a potentially novel reductive dehalogenase gene detected within both sponge species. This study describes for the first time, the microbial diversity of sponge species Hymeniacidon perlevis and Suberites massa and further support the host specificity of both the sponge microbiome and the microbiome response to environmental changes. Additionally, the presence of potentially organohalide respiring bacteria and associated functional genes suggest the potential for in situ dehalogenation occurring via sponge associated microorganisms and further highlights the sponge microbiome as a key source of microorganisms with degradation potential and biotechnological application.
Date of Award19 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJoy Watts (Supervisor), Simon Cragg (Supervisor) & Sam Robson (Supervisor)

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