What we can learn from sushi: a review on seaweed–bacterial associations


Correspondence: Joke Hollants, Ghent University, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology (WE10), Laboratory of Microbiology, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium. Tel.: +32 9 264 5140; fax: +32 9 264 5092; e-mail: joke.hollants@gmail.com


Many eukaryotes are closely associated with bacteria which enable them to expand their physiological capacities. Associations between algae (photosynthetic eukaryotes) and bacteria have been described for over a hundred years. A wide range of beneficial and detrimental interactions exists between macroalgae (seaweeds) and epi- and endosymbiotic bacteria that reside either on the surface or within the algal cells. While it has been shown that these chemically mediated interactions are based on the exchange of nutrients, minerals, and secondary metabolites, the diversity and specificity of macroalgal–bacterial relationships have not been thoroughly investigated. Some of these alliances have been found to be algal or bacterial species-specific, whereas others are widespread among different symbiotic partners. Reviewing 161 macroalgal–bacterial studies from the last 55 years, a definite bacterial core community, consisting of Gammaproteobacteria, CFB group, Alphaproteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Actinobacteria species, seems to exist which is specifically (functionally) adapted to an algal host–associated lifestyle. Because seaweed–bacterial associations are appealing from evolutionary and applied perspectives, future studies should integrate the aspects of diverse biological fields.