Abundance of Oligoflexales bacteria is associated with algal symbiont density independent of thermal stress in Aiptasia anemones

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Many multicellular organisms, such as humans, plants, and invertebrates, depend on symbioses with microbes for metabolic cooperation and exchange. Reef-building corals, an ecologically important order of invertebrates, are particularly vulnerable to environmental stress in part because of their nutritive symbiosis with dinoflagellate algae, and yet also benefit from these and other microbial associations. While coral microbiomes remain difficult to study because of their complexity, the anemone Aiptasia is emerging as a simplified model. Research has demonstrated co-occurrences between microbiome composition and the abundance and type of algal symbionts in cnidarians. However, whether these patterns are the result of general stress-induced shifts or depletions of algal-associated bacteria remains unclear. Our study aimed to distinguish the effect of changes in symbiont density and thermal stress on the microbiome of symbiotic Aiptasia strain CC7 by comparing them with aposymbiotic anemones, depleted of their native symbiont, Symbiodinium linucheae . Our analysis indicated that overall, thermal stress had the greatest impact on disrupting the microbiome. We found that three bacterial classes made up most of the relative abundance (60-85 %) in all samples, but the rare microbiome fluctuated between symbiotic states and following thermal stress. We also observed that S. linucheae density correlated with abundance of Oligoflexales, suggesting these bacteria may be primary symbionts of the dinoflagellate algae. The findings of this study help expand knowledge on prospective multipartite symbioses in the cnidarian holobiont and how they respond to environmental disturbance.

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