Competitive interactions between sponge-associated bacteria

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The diversity of the microbial communities associated with marine sponges has been extensively studied, but their functioning and interactions within the sponge holobiont are only recently being appreciated. Sponge-associated microorganisms are known for the production of a range of inhibitory metabolites with biotechnological application, but the ecological role that these compounds remains elusive. In this work, we explore the competitive interactions between cultivated sponge-associated bacteria to inspect whether bacteria that produce antimicrobial activities are able to inhibit potentially pathogenic bacteria. We isolated a Bacillus sp. bacterium with sponge-degrading activity, which likely has a negative impact on the host. This bacterium, along with other sponge isolates from the same genus, was found to be inhibited by a subpopulation of closely related sponge-derived Pseudovibrio spp. In some Pseudovibrio strains, these inhibitory activities were correlated with the genetic capacity to produce polyketides, such as erythronolide. Our observations suggest that antagonistic activities likely influence the composition of the sponge microbiome, including the abundance of bacteria that can be harmful to the host.

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