Microbial diversity within the Trichodesmium holobiont. Academic Article uri icon


  • Nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in the genus Trichodesmium play a critical role in the productivity of the tropical and subtropical oligotrophic oceans. The ecological success of these populations is likely associated with the diverse microbial interactions occurring within the Trichodesmium holobiont, especially between Trichodesmium and heterotrophic bacterial epibionts. Yet, the composition of the Trichodesmium holobiont and the processes governing microbial assemblage are not well documented. Here, we used high-resolution 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing to examine the diversity of Trichodesmium and associated epibionts across different ocean regions and colony morphologies (puffs and rafts). Trichodesmium Clade I (i.e., T. thiebautii-like) dominated the colonies in all ocean basins regardless of morphology, although the Trichodesmium community structure significantly varied between morphologies in some regions. On average, Alphaproteobacteria (i.e., Thalassobius), Gammaproteobacteria (i.e., Pseudoalteromonas), Sphingobacteria (i.e., Microscilla and Vibrio) and Flavobacteria dominated the epibiont communities, but community composition and structure significantly differed between regions. Epibionts from the two colony morphologies were taxonomically and functionally distinct in the North Atlantic and North Pacific. These findings suggest that the colony types might define two distinct niches and that epibiont assemblage might be driven in part by selective processes, where epibionts are selected according to their influence on colony metabolism.

publication date

  • December 2016