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Photobacterium leiognathi forms a bioluminescent symbiosis with leiognathid fishes, colonizing the internal light organ of the fish and providing its host with light used in bioluminescence displays. Strains symbiotic with different species of the fish exhibit substantial phenotypic differences in symbiosis and in culture, including differences in 2-D PAGE protein patterns and profiles of indigenous plasmids. To determine if such differences might reflect a genetically based symbiont-strain/host-species specificity, we profiled the genomes of P. leiognathi strains from leiognathid fishes using PFGE. Individual strains from 10 species of leiognathid fishes exhibited substantial genomic polymorphism, with no obvious similarity among strains; these strains were nonetheless identified as P. leiognathi by 16S rDNA sequence analysis. Profiling of multiple strains from individual host specimens revealed an oligoclonal structure to the symbiont populations; typically one or two genomotypes dominated each population. However, analysis of multiple strains from multiple specimens of the same host species, to determine if the same strain types consistently colonize a host species, demonstrated substantial heterogeneity, with the same genomotype only rarely observed among the symbiont populations of different specimens of the same host species. Colonization of the leiognathid light organ to initiate the symbiosis therefore is likely to be oliogoclonal, and specificity of the P. leiognathi/leiognathid fish symbiosis apparently is maintained at the bacterial species level rather than at the level of individual, genomotypically defined strain types.