Diversity of Mycobacterium species from marine sponges and their sensitivity to antagonism by sponge-derived rifamycin-synthesizing actinobacterium in the genus Salinispora


  • Present address: Marie E.A. Gauthier, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

  • Editor: Jan-Ulrich Kreft

Correspondence: John A. Fuerst, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia. Tel.: +61 7 3365 4643; fax: +61 7 3365 4273; e-mail: j.fuerst@uq.edu.au


Eleven isolates of Mycobacterium species as well as an antimycobacterial Salinispora arenicola strain were cultured from the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. The 16S rRNA, rpoB, and hsp65 genes from these Mycobacterium isolates were sequenced, and phylogenetic analysis of a concatenated alignment showed the formation of a large clade with Mycobacterium poriferae isolated previously from another sponge species. The separation of these Mycobacterium isolates into three species-level groups was evident from sequence similarity and phylogenetic analyses. In addition, an isolate that is phylogenetically related to Mycobacterium tuberculosis was recovered from the sponge Fascaplysinopsis sp. Several different mycobacteria thus appear to co-occur in the same sponge. An actinobacterium closely related to S. arenicola, a known producer of the antimycobacterial rifamycins, was coisolated from the same A. queenslandica specimen from which mycobacteria had been isolated. This Salinispora isolate was confirmed to synthesize rifamycin and displayed inhibitory effects against representatives from two of three Mycobacterium phylotype groups. Evidence for antagonism of sponge-derived Salinispora against sponge-derived Mycobacterium strains from the same sponge specimen and the production of antimycobacterial antibiotics by this Salinispora strain suggest that the synthesis of such antibiotics may have functions in competition between sponge microbial community members.