A Novel Alveolate in Bivalves with Chemosynthetic Bacteria Inhabiting Deep-Sea Methane Seeps



K. Takishita, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokosuka, Kanagawa, 237-0061, Japan

Telephone number: +81-46-867-9538; FAX number: +81-46-867-9525; e-mail: takishitak@jamstec.go.jp


It has recently been unveiled that a wide variety of microbial eukaryotes (protists) occur in chemosynthetic ecosystems, such as hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. However, there is little knowledge regarding protists associated with endemic animals inhabiting these environments. In the present study, utilizing PCR techniques, we detected fragments of the small subunit ribosomal RNA gene (SSU rRNA gene) from a particular protist from gill tissues of a significant fraction of the vesicomyid clams Calyptogena soyoae and C. okutanii complex and of the mussel Bathymodiolus platifrons and B. japonicus, all of which harbor chemosynthetic endosymbiont bacteria and dominate methane seeps in Sagami Bay, Japan. Based on the phylogeny of SSU rRNA gene, the organism in question was shown to belong to Alveolata. It is noteworthy that this protist did not affiliate with any known alveolate group, although being deeply branched within the lineage of Syndiniales, for which the monophyly was constantly recovered, but not robustly supported. In addition, the protist detected using PCR followed by sequencing was localized within gill epithelial cells of B. platifrons with whole-mount fluorescence in situ hybridization. This protist may be an endoparasite or an endocommensal of Calyptogena spp. and Bathymodiolus spp., and possibly have physiological and ecological impacts on these bivalves.