Enrichable Consortia of Microbial Symbionts Degrade Macroalgal Polysaccharides in Kyphosus Fish

Aaron Oliver, Sheila Podell, Linda Kelly, Wesley Sparagon, Alvaro Plominsky, Robert Nelson, Lieve Laurens, Simona Augyte, Neil Sims, Craig Nelson, Eric Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coastal herbivorous fishes consume macroalgae, which is then degraded by microbes along their digestive tract. However, there is scarce genomic information about the microbiota that perform this degradation. This study explores the potential of Kyphosus gastrointestinal microbial symbionts to collaboratively degrade and ferment polysaccharides from red, green, and brown macroalgae through in silico study of carbohydrate-active enzyme and sulfatase sequences. Recovery of metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from previously described Kyphosus gut metagenomes and newly sequenced bioreactor enrichments reveals differences in enzymatic capabilities between the major microbial taxa in Kyphosus guts. The most versatile of the recovered MAGs were from the Bacteroidota phylum, whose MAGs house enzyme collections able to decompose a variety of algal polysaccharides. Unique enzymes and predicted degradative capacities of genomes from the Bacillota (genus Vallitalea) and Verrucomicrobiota (order Kiritimatiellales) highlight the importance of metabolic contributions from multiple phyla to broaden polysaccharide degradation capabilities. Few genomes contain the required enzymes to fully degrade any complex sulfated algal polysaccharide alone. The distribution of suitable enzymes between MAGs originating from different taxa, along with the widespread detection of signal peptides in candidate enzymes, is consistent with cooperative extracellular degradation of these carbohydrates. This study leverages genomic evidence to reveal an untapped diversity at the enzyme and strain level among Kyphosus symbionts and their contributions to macroalgae decomposition. Bioreactor enrichments provide a genomic foundation for degradative and fermentative processes central to translating the knowledge gained from this system to the aquaculture and bioenergy sectors.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-89762


  • fish gut microbiome
  • Kyphosus
  • macroalgal polysaccharides
  • sulfatase


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