Comparative genomics of cyanobacterial symbionts reveals distinct, specialized metabolism in tropical Dysideidae sponges

Schorn, MA, Jordan PA, Podell S, Blanton JM, Agarwal V, Biggs JS, Allen EE, Moore BS.  2019.  Comparative genomics of cyanobacterial symbionts reveals distinct, specialized metabolism in tropical Dysideidae sponges. mBio. 10( McFall-Ngai MJ, Donia M, Thacker R, Eds.).

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Marine sponges are recognized as valuable sources of bioactive metabolites and renowned as petri dishes of the sea, providing specialized niches for many symbiotic microorganisms. Sponges of the family Dysideidae are well documented to be chemically talented, often containing high levels of polyhalogenated compounds, terpenoids, peptides, and other classes of bioactive small molecules. This group of tropical sponges hosts a high abundance of an uncultured filamentous cyanobacterium, Hormoscilla spongeliae. Here, we report the comparative genomic analyses of two phylogenetically distinct Hormoscilla populations, which reveal shared deficiencies in essential pathways, hinting at possible reasons for their uncultivable status, as well as differing biosynthetic machinery for the production of specialized metabolites. One symbiont population contains clustered genes for expanded polybrominated diphenylether (PBDE) biosynthesis, while the other instead harbors a unique gene cluster for the biosynthesis of the dysinosin nonribosomal peptides. The hybrid sequencing and assembly approach utilized here allows, for the first time, a comprehensive look into the genomes of these elusive sponge symbionts.IMPORTANCE Natural products provide the inspiration for most clinical drugs. With the rise in antibiotic resistance, it is imperative to discover new sources of chemical diversity. Bacteria living in symbiosis with marine invertebrates have emerged as an untapped source of natural chemistry. While symbiotic bacteria are often recalcitrant to growth in the lab, advances in metagenomic sequencing and assembly now make it possible to access their genetic blueprint. A cell enrichment procedure, combined with a hybrid sequencing and assembly approach, enabled detailed genomic analysis of uncultivated cyanobacterial symbiont populations in two chemically rich tropical marine sponges. These population genomes reveal a wealth of secondary metabolism potential as well as possible reasons for historical difficulties in their cultivation.