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Modularity and predicted functions of the global sponge-microbiome network

Modularity and predicted functions of the global sponge-microbiome network
© Amanderson
Defining the organization of networks of interaction between species and revealing the processes at the origin of their assembly is fundamental to understand biodiversity, the stability of communities and the functioning of ecosystems. This is the challenge tackled by researchers at the Station of Theoretical and Experimental Ecology of Moulis (UMR CNRS / UPS). They presented the assembly network of the marine sponge microbiome in an article published in Nature Communications.

Marine sponges host complex communities of microorganisms that contribute to their health and survival, yet the mechanisms behind microbiome assembly are largely unknown. The authors of this article present the global marine sponge–microbiome network, containing over 150 sponge hosts, and almost 2 million bacterial associates, and revealed a modular organisation in both community structure and function. They show that modules are linked by a few sponge species that share microbes with other species all around the world.

What is microbiome?

A community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the sum of microorganisms living in sponges. Most of these microorganisms establish symbiotic interactions with their hosts.

This is somehow expected for tight associations such as symbioses: a strong microbial community differentiation across host species. Hosts within a given module have a set of characteristic functions given by their symbionts, that differ across modules.

The authors then tried to answer the following question: What are the drivers of such modularity? As expected, host type (i.e. modules contain sponges with very different lifestyles) and sponge phylogeny (i.e. hosts are more phylogenetically related within a module than across modules) were key predictors for modularity. What challenges the current paradigm is that abiotic conditions of the environment played a negligible role. For example, sponges inhabiting a given marine ecoregion do not share more symbionts among them than with hosts from other ecoregions.

These findings suggest that both ecological and evolutionary processes are at play in host-microbe network assembly. On the basis of this specific example, authors predict that mechanisms behind microbiome assembly should consistent across multicellular hosts throughout the tree of life.

See also

Miguel Lurgi, Torsten Thomas, Bernd Wemheuer, Nicole S. Webster & Jose M. Montoya. Modularity and predicted functions of the global sponge-microbiome network.Nature Communications (2019) 10:992 |