Scallop-bacteria symbiosis from the deep sea reveals strong genomic coupling in the absence of cellular integration

Yi-Tao LIN, Jack Chi-Ho IP, Xing HE, Zhao-Ming GAO, Maeva PEREZ, Ting XU, Jin SUN, Pei-Yuan QIAN, Jian-Wen QIU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Previous studies have revealed tight metabolic complementarity between bivalves and their endosymbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria, but little is known about their interactions with ectosymbionts. Our analysis of the ectosymbiosis between a deep-sea scallop (Catillopecten margaritatus) and a gammaproteobacterium showed that bivalves could be highly interdependent with their ectosymbionts as well. Our microscopic observation revealed abundant sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (SOB) on the surfaces of the gill epithelial cells. Microbial 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of the gill tissue showed the dominance of the SOB. An analysis of the SOB genome showed that it is substantially smaller than its free-living relatives and has lost cellular components required for free-living. Genomic and transcriptomic analyses showed that this ectosymbiont relies on rhodanese-like proteins and SOX multienzyme complex for energy generation and mainly on the CBB cycle for carbon assimilation. The symbiont encodes an incomplete TCA cycle that could also assimilate inorganic carbon via a phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase. Observation of the scallop’s digestive gland and its nitrogen metabolism pathways indicates it does not fully rely on the ectosymbiont for nutrition. Analysis of the host’s gene expression provided evidence that it could offer intermediates for the ectosymbiont to complete its TCA cycle and some amino acid synthesis pathways using exosomes, and its phagosomes, endosomes, and lysosomes might be involved in harvesting nutrients from the symbionts. Overall, our study prompts us to rethink the intimacy between the hosts and ectosymbionts in Bivalvia and the evolution of chemosymbiosis in general.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberwrae048
JournalISME Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) [2024]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Microbial Ecology.


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