How polyps of the moon jellyfish repel viral attacks on their microbiome

How moon jellyfish polyps fight off viral attacks on the microbiome

Different life stages of jellyfish polyps in the laboratory of the Institute of General Microbiology, Kiel University.Credit: Nancy Weiland-Bräuer, Kiel University

Bacteriophages, or phages for short, are viruses that infect bacteria and kill them through a lytic process. Phages can kill bacteria on or inside multicellular host organisms, such as moon jellyfish polyps. Phages are specialized to specific bacteria and can significantly alter the bacterial composition of a polyp’s microbiome.

The impact of phages on the microbiome, and therefore on polyp fitness, is still largely unknown. Microbiologists at Kiel University, led by Professor Ruth Schmitz Streit, have shown for the first time in laboratory experiments that polyps regenerate rapidly after infection with bacteriophages.

This finding suggests that the resistance of the Aquarium jellyfish’s natural microbiome to phages from the Baltic Sea is quite remarkable, and these often overlooked small and important roles may play a role in the microbiome and ultimately It contributes to our knowledge about the effects on the fitness of the moon jellyfish. .The results were recently published in the journal Frontiers of microbiology.

Polyps show high resistance after virus attack

During the polyp stage, the animal attaches to the sea floor and uses its tentacles to capture food from the water. On the surface of the stalked body there is a large number of bacteria, forming the so-called microbiome, which plays an important role in the fitness of the polyp.

In previous research, microbiologists at the General Microbiology Laboratory have already shown how important the natural microbiome is for the moon jellyfish’s vegetative reproduction and defense against pathogens.

Their current research investigated how the microbiome survives bacteriophage infection and what effect this has on polyps. In laboratory experiments, the researchers observed that the introduction of the phages caused significant changes in the shape of polyps, but the changes were temporary. After viral protection, the polyp returned to its normal shape.

“After treating polyps with certain bacteriophages, the polyp’s body became noticeably shorter and rounder and lost its tentacles. These are usually signs of polyp death. However, we did not see a single dead polyp. In fact, all the polyps regenerated.”We were completely surprised by this high resiliency,” says Dr. Melissa Stante. She is a student in Ruth Schmitz Streit’s research group and the study’s lead author.

How moon jellyfish polyps fight off viral attacks on the microbiome

Different life stages of jellyfish polyps in the laboratory of the Institute of General Microbiology, Kiel University.Credit: Nancy Weiland-Bräuer, Kiel University

Series of trials on treated polyps show rapid recovery of microbiome

One explanation for this could be that the polyp, or more precisely its microbiome, quickly adapts to the presence of the phage, thus preventing permanent damage. Scientists sampled the polyp’s microbiome over a five-day period. They found that mycoplasma, the most common type of bacteria, initially decreased but recovered after 24 hours.

“In Baltic water jellyfish polyps, the microbiome is dominated primarily by a specific bacterium, an uncultured Mycoplasma bacterium. This colonizer was significantly reduced when the phages were administered. This led to It allowed other bacteria to temporarily become dominant.”

“The exact factors that promote not only the initial decline of mycoplasma but also its subsequent rapid regeneration are currently the subject of further research,” says Dr. Nancy Weiland-Breuer, PD. The dynamics of microbiome composition was synchronized with polyp deformation.

Phage-microbiome-host interactions have cascading effects on ecosystems

Knowledge of the dynamic interactions between the moon jellyfish, its microbiome, and phages will contribute to our understanding of ocean nutrient and element cycling. At the same time, this process plays an important role in understanding ecosystem stability and is the basis for the study of diseases in the Baltic Sea ecosystem.

Additionally, the results will contribute to the ‘Ocean Health’ research initiative, which focuses on the health and disease impacts of climate change and potential future environmental conditions. In addition to lysing bacteria, phages can exchange genetic material with host microorganisms, helping the microbiome to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

“The rapid regeneration of polyp shape after phage treatment seems to correlate with the recovery of the natural microbiome of the moon jellyfish. This strongly indicates that there is.

“Factors that increase microbiome resilience may also provide important clues about how to protect a healthy microbiome in humans. However, we are still in the relatively early stages of basic research.” , says Professor Dr. Ruth Schmitz Streit. of the research group.

For more information:
Melissa Stante et al, Marine bacteriophages have reversible effects on host morphology and disrupt the associated microbiota of Aurelia aurita, Frontiers of microbiology (2024). DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2024.1356337

Provided by Kiel University

Quote: How moon jellyfish polyps fight off viral attack on the microbiome (April 30, 2024) Retrieved April 30, 2024 from

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