Host-dependent nitrogen recycling as a mechanism of symbiont control in Aiptasia
Cui, Guoxin; Liew, Yi Jin; Li, Yong; Kharbatia, Najeh; Zahran, Noura I; Emwas, Abdul-Hamid; Eguiluz, Victor M; Aranda, Manuel
PLoS genetics 15, e1008189 (2019)
The metabolic symbiosis with photosynthetic algae allows corals to thrive in the oligotrophic environments of tropical seas. Different aspects of this relationship have been investigated using the emerging model organism Aiptasia. However, many fundamental questions, such as the nature of the symbiotic relationship and the interactions of nutrients between the partners remain highly debated. Using a meta-analysis approach, we identified a core set of 731 high-confidence symbiosis-associated genes that revealed host-dependent recycling of waste ammonium and amino acid synthesis as central processes in this relationship. Subsequent validation via metabolomic analyses confirmed that symbiont-derived carbon enables host recycling of ammonium into nonessential amino acids. We propose that this provides a regulatory mechanism to control symbiont growth through a carbon-dependent negative feedback of nitrogen availability to the symbiont. The dependence of this mechanism on symbiont-derived carbon highlights the susceptibility of this symbiosis to changes in carbon translocation, as imposed by environmental stress.