Herbivorous Fish Microbiome Adaptations to Sulfated Dietary Polysaccharides

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus Citations


Marine herbivorous fish that feed primarily on macroalgae, such as those from the genus Kyphosus, are essential for maintaining coral health and abundance on tropical reefs. Here, deep metagenomic sequencing and assembly of gut compartment-specific samples from three sympatric, macroalgivorous Hawaiian kyphosid species have been used to connect host gut microbial taxa with predicted protein functional capacities likely to contribute to efficient macroalgal digestion. Bacterial community compositions, algal dietary sources, and predicted enzyme functionalities were analyzed in parallel for 16 metagenomes spanning the mid- and hindgut digestive regions of wild-caught fishes. Gene colocalization patterns of expanded carbohydrate (CAZy) and sulfatase (SulfAtlas) digestive enzyme families on assembled contigs were used to identify likely polysaccharide utilization locus associations and to visualize potential cooperative networks of extracellularly exported proteins targeting complex sulfated polysaccharides. These insights into the gut microbiota of herbivorous marine fish and their functional capabilities improve our understanding of the enzymes and microorganisms involved in digesting complex macroalgal sulfated polysaccharides. IMPORTANCE This work connects specific uncultured bacterial taxa with distinct polysaccharide digestion capabilities lacking in their marine vertebrate hosts, providing fresh insights into poorly understood processes for deconstructing complex sulfated polysaccharides and potential evolutionary mechanisms for microbial acquisition of expanded macroalgal utilization gene functions. Several thousand new marine-specific candidate enzyme sequences for polysaccharide utilization have been identified. These data provide foundational resources for future investigations into suppression of coral reef macroalgal overgrowth, fish host physiology, the use of macroalgal feedstocks in terrestrial and aquaculture animal feeds, and the bioconversion of macroalgae biomass into value-added commercial fuel and chemical products.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)e0215422
Number of pages18
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-86337


  • fish gut microbiome
  • kyphosid
  • macroalgal digestion
  • polysaccharide utilization
  • sulfatase


Dive into the research topics of 'Herbivorous Fish Microbiome Adaptations to Sulfated Dietary Polysaccharides'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this