Coexistence of multiple proteobacterial endosymbionts in the gills of the wood-boring Bivalve Lyrodus pedicellatus (Bivalvia: Teredinidae). Academic Article uri icon


  • Wood-boring bivalves of the family Teredinidae (commonly called shipworms) are known to harbor dense populations of gram-negative bacteria within specialized cells (bacteriocytes) in their gills. These symbionts are thought to provide enzymes, e.g., cellulase and dinitrogenase, which assist the host in utilizing wood as a primary food source. A cellulolytic, dinitrogen-fixing bacterium, Teredinibacter turnerae, has been isolated from the gill tissues of numerous teredinid bivalves and has been proposed to constitute the sole or predominant symbiont of this bivalve family. Here we demonstrate that one teredinid species, Lyrodus pedicellatus, contains at least four distinct bacterial 16S rRNA types within its gill bacteriocytes, one of which is identical to that of T. turnerae. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the three newly detected ribotypes are derived from gamma proteobacteria that are related to but distinct (>6.5% sequence divergence) from T. turnerae. In situ hybridizations with 16S rRNA-directed probes demonstrated that the pattern of occurrence of symbiont ribotypes within bacteriocytes was predictable and specific, with some bacteriocytes containing two symbiont ribotypes. However, only two of the six possible pairwise combinations of the four ribotypes were observed to cooccur within the same host cells. The results presented here are consistent with the existence of a complex multiple symbiosis in this shipworm species.

publication date

  • December 2002