Comparative Metagenomic Analysis of Biosynthetic Diversity across Sponge Microbiomes Highlights Metabolic Novelty, Conservation, and Diversification

Loureiro, Catarina; Galani, Anastasia; Gavriilidou, Asimenia; Mares, Maryam Chaib de; Oost, John van der; Medema, Marnix H.; Sipkema, Detmer


Marine sponges and their microbial symbiotic communities are rich sources of diverse natural products (NPs) that often display biological activity, yet little is known about the global distribution of NPs and the symbionts that produce them. Since the majority of sponge symbionts remain uncultured, it is a challenge to characterize their NP biosynthetic pathways, assess their prevalence within the holobiont, and measure the diversity of NP biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) across sponge taxa and environments. Here, we explore the microbial biosynthetic landscapes of three high-microbial-abundance (HMA) sponges from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This data set reveals striking novelty, with,1% of the recovered gene cluster families (GCFs) showing similarity to any characterized BGC. When zooming in on the microbial communities of each sponge, we observed higher variability of specialized metabolic and taxonomic profiles between sponge species than within species. Nonetheless, we identified conservation of GCFs, with 20% of sponge GCFs being shared between at least two sponge species and a GCF core comprised of 6% of GCFs shared across all species. Within this functional core, we identified a set of widespread and diverse GCFs encoding nonribosomal peptide synthetases that are potentially involved in the production of diversified ether lipids, as well as GCFs putatively encoding the production of highly modified proteusins. The present work contributes to the small, yet growing body of data characterizing NP landscapes of marine sponge symbionts and to the cryptic biosynthetic potential contained in this environmental niche.