Shedding light on microbial dark matter: a TM6 bacterium as natural endosymbiont of a free-living amoeba

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The TM6 phylum belongs to the so-called microbial dark matter that gathers uncultivated bacteria detected only via DNA sequencing. Recently, the genome sequence of a TM6 bacterium (TM6SC1) has led to suggest that this bacterium would adopt an endosymbiotic life. In the present paper, free-living amoebae bearing a TM6 strain were isolated from a water network. The amoebae were identified asVermamoeba vermiformisand the presence of a TM6 strain was detected by polymerase chain reaction and microscopy. The partial sequence of its 16S rRNA gene showed this strain to be closely related to the sequenced TM6SC1 strain. These bacteria displayed a pyriform shape and were found withinV. vermiformis. Therefore, these bacteria were namedVermiphilus pyriformis. Interactions studies showed thatV. pyriformiswas highly infectious and that its relation withV. vermiformiswas specific and highly stable. Finally, it was found thatV. pyriformisinhibited the encystment ofV. vermiformis. Overall, this study describes for the first time an endosymbiotic relationship between a TM6 bacterium and a free-living amoeba in the environment. It suggests that other bacteria of the TM6 phylum might also be endosymbiotic bacteria and may be found in other free-living amoebae or other organisms.

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