Pratte ZA, Besson M, Hollman RD, Stewart FJ. 2018. The gills of reef fish support a distinct microbiome influenced by host-specific factors. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. In press.
Teleost fish represent the most diverse of the vertebrate groups and play important roles in food webs, as ecosystem engineers, and as vectors for microorganisms. However, the microbial ecology of fishes remains underexplored for most host taxa, and for certain niches on the fish body. This is particularly true for the gills, the key sites for respiration and waste exchange in fishes. Here, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the gill microbiome. We focus on ecologically diverse taxa from coral reefs around Moorea, sampling the gill and intestines of adults and juveniles representing 15 families. Gill microbiome composition differed significantly from that of the gut in both adults and juveniles, with fish-associated niches having lower alpha diversity and higher beta diversity compared to seawater, sediment, and algae-associated microbiomes. Of ~45,000 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) detected across all samples, 11% and 13% were detected only in the gill and intestine, respectively. OTUs most enriched in the gill included members of the gammaproteobacterial genus Shewanella and family Endozoicimonaceae. In adult fish, both gill and intestinal microbiomes varied significantly among host species grouped by diet category. Gill and intestinal microbiomes from the same individual were more similar to one another compared to gill and intestinal microbiomes from different individuals. These results demonstrate that distinct body sites are jointly influenced by host-specific organizing factors operating at the level of the host individual. The results also identify taxonomic signatures unique to the gill and intestine, confirming fish-associated niches as distinct reservoirs of marine microbial diversity.