Sponge Microbiota are a Reservoir of Functional Antibiotic Resistance Genes

Dennis Versluis, Mari Cristina Rodriguez de Evgrafov, Morten Otto Alexander Sommer, Detmer Sipkema, Hauke Smidt, Mark W. J. van Passel

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Wide application of antibiotics has contributed to the evolution of multi-drug resistant human pathogens, resulting in poorer treatment outcomes for infections. In the marine environment, seawater samples have been investigated as a resistance reservoir; however, no studies have methodically examined sponges as a reservoir of antibiotic resistance. Sponges could be important in this respect because they often contain diverse microbial communities that have the capacity to produce bioactive metabolites. Here, we applied functional metagenomics to study the presence and diversity of functional resistance genes in the sponges Aplysina aerophoba, Petrosia ficiformis, and Corticium candelabrum. We obtained 37 insert sequences facilitating resistance to D-cycloserine (n = 6), gentamicin (n = 1), amikacin (n = 7), trimethoprim (n = 17), chloramphenicol (n = 1), rifampicin (n = 2) and ampicillin (n = 3). Fifteen of 37 inserts harbored resistance genes that shared <90% amino acid identity with known gene products, whereas on 13 inserts no resistance gene could be identified with high confidence, in which case we predicted resistance to be mainly mediated by antibiotic efflux. One marine-specific ampicillin-resistance-conferring β-lactamase was identified in the genus Pseudovibrio with 41% global amino acid identity to the closest β-lactamase with demonstrated functionality, and subsequently classified into a new family termed PSV. Taken together, our results show that sponge microbiota host diverse and novel resistance genes that may be harnessed by phylogenetically distinct bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1848
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Sponge
  • Microbiota
  • Resistance gene
  • Functional metagenomics


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