Characterization of the intestinal microbiota of the sea cucumber Holothuria glaberrima

María Pagán-Jiménez, Jean F. Ruiz-Calderón, María G. Dominguez-Bello, José E. García-Arrarás

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24 Scopus citations


High-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing has been used to identify the intestinal microbiota of many animal species, but that of marine invertebrate organisms remains largely unknown. There are only a few high-throughput sequencing studies on the intestinal microbiota of echinoderms (non-vertebrate Deuterostomes). Here we describe the intestinal microbiota of the sea cucumber Holothuria glaberrima, an echinoderm, well-known for its remarkable power of regeneration. We characterized the microbiota from the anterior descending intestine, the medial intestine (these two comprise the small intestine) and the posterior descending intestine (or large intestine), using pyrosequencing to sequence the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. We compared animals in their natural marine environment and in sea-water aquaria. A total of 8,172 OTU’s were grouped in 10 bacterial phyla, 23 classes, 44 orders, 83 families, 127 genera and 1 group of unknown bacteria, present across the digestive tract of 10 specimens. The results showed that the anterior intestine is dominated by Proteobacteria (61%) and Bacteroidetes (22%), the medium intestine is similar but with lower Bacteroidetes (4%), and the posterior intestine was remarkably different, dominated by Firmicutes (48%) and Bacteroidetes (35%). The structure of the community changed in animals kept in aquaria, which had a general dominance of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, regardless the intestinal segment. Our results evidence that in the natural sea environment, there is intestinal segment differentiation in the microbiota of H. glaberrima, which is lost in artificial conditions. This is relevant for physiological studies, such as mechanisms of digestive regeneration, which might be affected by the microbiota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0208011
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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