A New N-Acyl Homoserine Lactone Synthase in an Uncultured Symbiont of the Red Sea Sponge Theonella swinhoei. Academic Article uri icon


  • Sponges harbor a remarkable diversity of microbial symbionts in which signal molecules can accumulate and enable cell-cell communication, such as quorum sensing (QS). Bacteria capable of QS were isolated from marine sponges; however, an extremely small fraction of the sponge microbiome is amenable to cultivation. We took advantage of community genome assembly and binning to investigate the uncultured majority of sponge symbionts. We identified a complete N-acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL)-QS system (designated TswIR) and seven partial luxI homologues in the microbiome of Theonella swinhoei. The TswIR system was novel and shown to be associated with an alphaproteobacterium of the order Rhodobacterales, here termed Rhodobacterales bacterium TS309. The tswI gene, when expressed in Escherichia coli, produced three AHLs, two of which were also identified in a T. swinhoei sponge extract. The taxonomic affiliation of the 16S rRNA of Rhodobacterales bacterium TS309 to a sponge-coral specific clade, its enrichment in sponge versus seawater and marine sediment samples, and the presence of sponge-specific features, such as ankyrin-like domains and tetratricopeptide repeats, indicate a likely symbiotic nature of this bacterium.

publication date

  • February 15, 2016