Crown-of-thorns sea star Acanthaster cf. solaris has tissue-characteristic microbiomes with potential roles in health and reproduction

Lone Høj, Natalie Levy, Brett K. Baillie, Peta L. Clode, Raphael C. Strohmaier, Nachshon Siboni, Nicole S. Webster, Sven Uthicke, David G. Bourne

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns sea stars (CoTS; Acanthaster species complex) cause substantial coral loss; hence, there is considerable interest in developing prevention and control strategies. We characterized the microbiome of captive CoTS and assessed whether dysbiosis was evident in sea stars during a disease event. Most tissue types had a distinct microbiome. The exception was female gonads, in which the microbiomes were highly variable among individuals. Male gonads were dominated (> 97% of reads) by a single Mollicutes-related operational taxonomic unit (OTU). Detailed phylogenetic and microscopy analysis demonstrated the presence of a novel Spiroplasma-related bacterium in the spermatogenic layer. Body wall samples had high relative abundance (43 to 64% of reads) of spirochetes, likely corresponding to subcuticular symbionts reported from many echinoderms. Tube feet were characterized by Hyphomonadaceae (24 to 55% of reads). Pyloric cecal microbiomes had high alpha diversity, comprising many taxa commonly found in gastrointestinal systems. The order Oceanospirillales (genera Endozoicomonas and Kistimonas) was detected in all tissues. A microbiome shift occurred in diseased individuals although differences between tissue types were retained. The relative abundance of spirochetes was significantly reduced in diseased individuals. Kistimonas was present in all diseased individuals and significantly associated with diseased tube feet, but its role in disease causation is unknown. While Arcobacter was significantly associated with diseased tissues and Vibrionaceae increased in diversity, no single OTU was detected in all diseased individuals, suggesting opportunistic proliferation of these taxa in this case. This study shows that CoTS have tissuecharacteristic bacterial communities and identifies taxa that could play a role in reproduction and host health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00181-18
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


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