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Summary

The majority of bacteria engaged in bioluminescent symbiosis are environmentally acquired and facultatively symbiotic. A few enigmatic bioluminescent symbionts have not been successfully cultured, which has led to speculation that they may be obligately dependent on their hosts. Here, we report the draft genome of the uncultured luminous symbiont of an anomalopid flashlight fish, ‘Candidatus Photodesmus katoptron’. The genome of the anomalopid symbiont is reduced by 80% compared with close relatives and lacks almost all genes necessary for amino acid synthesis and for metabolism of energy sources other than glucose, supporting obligate dependence on the host for growth. ‘Candidatus Photodesmus katoptron’ is the first described obligate mutualistic symbiont of a vertebrate. Unlike most other obligate mutualists, the anomalopid symbiont genome has retained complete pathways for chemotaxis and motility as well as most genes involved in cell wall production, consistent with the hypothesis that these bacteria may be transmitted environmentally during an extra-host phase.