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Keywords:

  • bacteria;
  • Brazil;
  • coral mucus;
  • Mussismilia hispida;
  • Palythoa caribaeorum;
  • Palythoa variabilis;
  • Vibrio;
  • Zoanthus solanderi

Abstract

Aims:  A taxonomic survey of the vibrios associated with the Brazilian endemic coral Mussismilia hispida and the sympatric zoanthids (i.e. Palythoa caribaeorum, Palythoa variabilis and Zoanthus solanderi).

Methods and Results:  Mucus of 54 cnidarian specimens collected in three different places at São Sebastião in two consecutive years (i.e. 2005 and 2006) was used for taxonomic characterization of the cnidarian microbiota. Ninety-eight of the 151 vibrio isolates fell within the vibrio core group according to partial 16S rDNA sequences. We performed the sequencing of recA and pyrH genes of all vibrio isolates. The most abundant taxa belonged to the vibrio core group (Vibrio harveyi, Vibrio rotiferianus, Vibrio campbellii and Vibrio alginolyticus), Vibrio mediterranei (=Vibrio shillonii) and Vibrio chagasii. With the exception of V. chagasii which was found only in the mucus of M. hispida, the other species appeared in different hosts with no evidence for the presence of host-specific clones or species. Using rep-PCR analysis, we observed a high genomic heterogeneity within the vibrios. Each vibrio isolate generated a different rep-PCR fingerprint pattern. There was a complete agreement between the grouping based on rep-PCR and concatenated sequences of pyrH, recA and 16S rDNA, but the pyrH gene has the highest discriminatory power for vibrio species identification.

Conclusion:  The vibrio core group is dominant in the mucus of these cnidarians. There is a tremendous diversity of vibrio lineages within the coral mucus. pyrH gene sequences permit a clear-cut identification of vibrios.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  The taxonomic resolution provided by pyrH (but not recA) appears to be enough for identifying species of vibrios and for disclosing putative new taxa. The vibrio core group appears to be dominant in the mucus of the Brazilian cnidarians. The overrepresentation of these vibrios may reflect as yet unknown ecological functions in the coral holobiont.