2017 Volume 32 Issue 1 Pages 32-39
The community structure of bacteria associated with the glacier ice worm Mesenchytraeus solifugus was analyzed by amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA genes and their transcripts. Ice worms were collected from two distinct glaciers in Alaska, Harding Icefield and Byron Glacier, and glacier surfaces were also sampled for comparison. Marked differences were observed in bacterial community structures between the ice worm and glacier surface samples. Several bacterial phylotypes were detected almost exclusively in the ice worms, and these bacteria were phylogenetically affiliated with either animal-associated lineages or, interestingly, clades mostly consisting of glacier-indigenous species. The former included bacteria that belong to Mollicutes, Chlamydiae, Rickettsiales, and Lachnospiraceae, while the latter included Arcicella and Herminiimonas phylotypes. Among these bacteria enriched in ice worm samples, Mollicutes, Arcicella, and Herminiimonas phylotypes were abundantly and consistently detected in the ice worm samples; these phylotypes constituted the core microbiota associated with the ice worm. A fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis showed that Arcicella cells specifically colonized the epidermis of the ice worms. Other bacterial phylotypes detected in the ice worm samples were also abundantly recovered from the respective habitat glaciers; these bacteria may be food for ice worms to digest or temporary residents. Nevertheless, some were overrepresented in the ice worm RNA samples; they may also function as facultative gut bacteria. Our results indicate that the community structure of bacteria associated with ice worms is distinct from that in the associated glacier and includes worm-specific and facultative, glacier-indigenous lineages.