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Siboglinid-bacteria endosymbiosis: A model system for studying symbiotic mechanisms


Thornhill, Daniel J
Fielman, Kevin T
Santos, Scott R
Halanych, Kenneth M


Siboglinid worms are a group of gutless marine annelids which are nutritionally dependent upon endosymbiotic bacteria.1,2 Four major groups of siboglinids are known including vestimentiferans, Osedax spp., frenulates and moniliferans.3-5 Very little is known about the diversity of bacterial endosymbionts associated with frenulate or monoliferan siboglinids. This lack of knowledge is surprising considering the global distribution of siboglinids; this system is likely among the most common symbioses in the deep sea. At least three distinct clades of endosymbiotic gamma-proteobacteria associate with siboglinid annelids.6 Frenulates harbor a clade of gamma-proteobacteria that are divergent from both the thiotrophic bacteria of vestimentiferans and monoliferans as well as the heterotrophic bacteria of Osedax spp.6,7 We also discuss priorities for future siboglinid research and the need to move beyond descriptive studies. A promising new method, laser-capture microdissection (LCM), allows for the precise excision of tissue regions of interest.8 This method, when used in concert with molecular and genomic techniques, such as Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) surveys using pyrosequencing technology, will likely enable investigations into physiological processes and mechanisms in these symbioses. Furthermore, adopting a comparative approach using different siboglinid groups, such as worms harboring thiotrophic versus methanotrophic endosymbionts, may yield considerable insight into the ecology and evolution of the Siboglinidae.