Identification and characterization of microorganisms associated with marine macroalgae Splachnidium rugosum
Albakosh, Mouna Abdalhamed
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Marine macroalgae are known to carry diverse bacterial communities which interact with their hosts in both harmful and beneficial ways. Algae hosts provide the bacteria with a rich source of carbon in the form of carbohydrate polysaccharides such as fucoidan, agar and alginate, which the bacteria enzymatically degrade. Splachnidium rugosum is a brown alga (Phylum: Phaeophyta) that grows exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere along the temperate shores of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. While several studies have investigated S. rugosum distribution and fucoidan production, the microbiome of S. rugosum remains largely uncharacterized. Thus, the major objective of the present study was to isolate, identify and characterize epiphytic bacterial communities associated with S. rugosum. Algae were sourced from Rooi Els (Western Cape, South Africa) during winter 2012. Culture based methods relied on a range of selective marine media including marine agar, nutrient sea water agar, nutrient agar and thiosulfate-citrate-bile-salts-sucrose agar to determine the composition and uniqueness of bacterial communities associated with S. rugosum. Epiphytic isolates were identified to species level by 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis and encompassed 39 Gram-negative and 2 Grampositive bacterial taxa. Isolates were classified into four phylogenetic groups, Gamma - Proteobacteria, Alpha-Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes. Bacteria belonging to the phylum Gamma-Proteobacteria were the most abundant, with Vibrio and Pseudoalteromonas being the dominant genera. Three isolates with low sequence identity (˂97%) to their closest relatives could possibly represent novel species. These isolates were grouped into the genera Shewanella, Sphingomonas and Sulfitobacter. All bacterial isolates (41) were screened for antimicrobial activity against the following test strains: Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Mycobacterium smegmatis Micrococcus luteus and Pseudomonas putida. Fifteen isolates (36%) displayed antimicrobial activity against one or more of the test strains, while one isolate (Pseudomonas species) showed broad spectrum antimicrobial activity against all the test strains except for E. coli. This study provides the first account of the diversity and composition of bacterial populations on the surface of S. rugosum, and demonstrates the ability of these bacteria to produce antimicrobial compounds. Despite recent advances in metagenomics, this study highlights the fact that traditional culturing technologies remain a valuable tool for the discovery of novel bioactive compounds of bacterial origin.