Sponges from Zanzibar host diverse prokaryotic communities with potential for natural product synthesis

Stephanie B. Helber*, Georg Steinert, Yu Chen Wu, Sven Rohde, Ute Hentschel, Christopher A. Muhando, Peter J. Schupp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Sponges are one of the most dominant organisms in marine ecosystems. One reason for their success is their association with microorganisms that are besides the host itself responsible for the chemical defence. Sponge abundances have been increasing on coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and are predicted to increase further with rising anthropogenic impacts on coral reefs. However, there is a paucity of information on chemical ecology of sponges from the WIO and their prokaryotic community composition. We used a combination of Illumina sequencing and a predictive metagenomic analysis to (i) assess the prokaryotic community composition of sponges from Zanzibar, (ii) predict the presence of KEGG metabolic pathways responsible for bioactive compound production and (iii) relate their presence to the degree of observed chemical defence in their respective sponge host. We found that sponges from Zanzibar host diverse prokaryotic communities that are host species-specific. Sponge-species and respective specimens that showed strong chemical defences in previous studies were also predicted to be highly enriched in various pathways responsible for secondary metabolite production. Hence, the combined sequencing and predictive metagenomic approach proved to be a useful indicator for the metabolic potential of sponge holobionts.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiz026
Number of pages13
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number4
Early online date4 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


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