Isaacs, L.T., J. Kan, L. Nguyen, P. Videau, M.A. Anderson, T.L. Wright and R.T. Hill. 2009. Marine Biotechnology 11:758–770.
The red-beard sponge Clathria prolifera, which is widely distributed in the USA, has been widely used as a model system in cell biology and has been proposed as a suitable teaching tool on biology and environmental sciences. We undertook the first detailed microbiological study of this sponge on samples collected from the Chesapeake Bay. A combination of culture-based studies, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, and bacterial community characterization based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that C. prolifera contains a diverse assemblage of bacteria that is different from that in the surrounding water. C. prolifera individuals were successfully maintained in a flow-through or recirculation aquaculture system for over 6 months and shifts in the bacterial assemblages of sponges in aquaculture compared with wild sponges were examined. The proteobacteria, bacteroidetes, actinobacteria, and cyanobacteria represented over 90% of the species diversity present in the total bacterial community of the wild C. prolifera. Actinobacteria, cyanobacteria, and spirochetes were not represented in clones obtained from C. proliferamaintained in the aquaculture system although these three groups comprised ca. 20% of the clones from wild C. prolifera, showing a significant effect of aquaculture on the bacterial community composition. This is the first systematic characterization of the bacterial community from a sponge found in the Chesapeake Bay. Changes in sponge bacterial composition were observed in sponges maintained in aquaculture and demonstrate the importance of monitoring microbial communities when cultivating sponges in aquaculture systems.