Recently, genetic approaches have revealed a surprising bacterial world as well as a growing knowledge of the enormous distribution of animal-bacterial interactions. In the present study, the diversity of the microorganisms associated to the hydroid Aglaophenia octodonta was studied with epifluorescence, optical, and scanning electron microscopy. Small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequencing with "universal" and taxon-specific primers allowed the assignment of the microalgae to Symbiodinium and the peritrich ciliates to Pseudovorticella, while the luminous vibrios were identified as Vibrio jasicida of the Harvey clade. To understand the possible relationships among Vibrio jasicida, Symbiodinium, A. octodonta, and Pseudovorticella, specific treatments were conducted in microcosm experiments, with the antibiotic ampicillin and other substances that interfere with bacterial and hydroid metabolism. Treatment of A. octodonta with ampicillin resulted in a decrease of bacterial luminescence followed by Pseudovorticella detachment and Symbiodinium expulsion and suggesting that these microorganisms form a "consortium" with beneficial metabolic interdependence. This hypothesis was reinforced by the evidence that low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, which stimulate the bacterial oxidative metabolism and luminescence by releasing oxygen, were able to counteract the detrimental effect of ampicillin on the stability of the studied A. octodonta association. A model is proposed in which microalgae that release oxygen during photosynthesis are useful to luminous bacteria for their metabolism and for establishing/maintaining symbiosis leading to a close alliance and mutual benefit of the system A. octodonta-Vibrio jasicida-Pseudovorticella sp.-Symbiodinium sp.
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