Richard Chapman, Pixabay
Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics

The genomic basis of sponge-microbe symbioses

This project will use comparative genomics to understand the genomic basis of sponge-microbe hybrid in order to reveal the principles of metazoan-microbe symbioses.

Project Lead/s

Ute Hentschel, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research

Project Summary

The majority of my research efforts have been dedicated to the study of marine sponges. These basal metazoan organisms have the potential to teach us about ancient evolutionarily principles of host-microbe interactions. Most research on marine symbioses focuses on the contributions of photoautotrophic or chemoautotrophic microbes to host nutrition. One of the most impactful recent discoveries by my lab is that purely heterotrophic microbes, utilizing dissolved organic matter, contribute significantly to host nutrition. This changes how we think about biogeochemical cycling in these partnerships and broader community structure.

My research has had a significant impact on the research community by introducing marine sponge as models for symbioses, not only for marine microbiology and microbial ecology, but also for natural products /drug discovery research. I coordinate the ASG Sponges hub with 22 partners from 11 countries. The ASG Sponges team seeks to unravel the genomic basis of sponge-microbe symbioses by using comparative genomics to reveal ancient principles underlying metazoan-microbe symbioses.