The microbiome of a bacterivorous marine choanoflagellate contains a resource-demanding obligate bacterial associate.

David M. Needham, Camille Poirier, Charles Bachy, Emma E. George, Susanne Wilken, Charmaine C. M. Yung, Alexander J. Limardo, Michael Morando, Lisa Sudek, Rex R. Malmstrom, Patrick J. Keeling, Alyson E. Santoro and Alexandra Z. Worden

Microbial predators such as choanoflagellates are key players in ocean food webs. Choanoflagellates, which are the closest unicellular relatives of animals, consume bacteria and also exhibit marked biological transitions triggered by bacterial compounds, yet their native microbiomes remain uncharacterized. Here we report the discovery of a ubiquitous, uncultured bacterial lineage we name CandidatusComchoanobacterales ord. nov., related to the human pathogen Coxiella and physically associated with the uncultured marine choanoflagellate Bicosta minor. We analyse complete ‘Comchoano’ genomes acquired after sorting single Bicosta cells, finding signatures of obligate host-dependence, including reduction of pathways encoding glycolysis, membrane components, amino acids and B-vitamins. Comchoano encode the necessary apparatus to import energy and other compounds from the host, proteins for host-cell associations and a type IV secretion system closest to Coxiella’sthat is expressed in Pacific Ocean metatranscriptomes. Interactions between choanoflagellates and their microbiota could reshape the direction of energy and resource flow attributed to microbial predators, adding complexity and nuance to marine food webs.