Insights into the cultured bacterial fraction of corals

Michael Sweet, Helena Villela, Tina Keller-Costa, Rodrigo Costa, Stefano Romano, David G. Bourne, Anny Cárdenas, Megan J. Huggett, Allison H. Kerwin, Felicity Kuek, Mónica Medina, Julie L. Meyer, Moritz Müller, F. Joseph Pollock, Michael S. Rappé, Mathieu Sere, Koty H. Sharp, Christian R. Voolstra, Nathan Zaccardi, Maren ZieglerRaquel Peixoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Bacteria associated with coral hosts are diverse and abundant, with recent studies suggesting involvement of these symbionts in host resilience to anthropogenic stress. Despite their putative importance, the work dedicated to culturing coral-associated bacteria has received little attention. Combining published and unpublished data, here we report a comprehensive overview of the diversity and function of culturable bacteria isolated from corals originating from tropical, temperate, and cold-water habitats. A total of 3,055 isolates from 52 studies were considered by our metasurvey. Of these, 1,045 had full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences, spanning 138 formally described and 12 putatively novel bacterial genera across the Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria phyla. We performed comparative genomic analysis using the available genomes of 74 strains and identified potential signatures of beneficial bacterium-coral symbioses among the strains. Our analysis revealed >400 biosynthetic gene clusters that underlie the biosynthesis of antioxidant, antimicrobial, cytotoxic, and other secondary metabolites. Moreover, we uncovered genomic features-not previously described for coral-bacterium symbioses-potentially involved in host colonization and host-symbiont recognition, antiviral defense mechanisms, and/or integrated metabolic interactions, which we suggest as novel targets for the screening of coral probiotics. Our results highlight the importance of bacterial cultures to elucidate coral holobiont functioning and guide the selection of probiotic candidates to promote coral resilience and improve holistic and customized reef restoration and rehabilitation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01249-20
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Microbiology
  • Modeling and Simulation


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