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Sea urchin pigmentation influences the microbiome


Wessel, Gary; Kiyomoto, Masato; Reitzel, Adam; Carrier, Tyler (2022), Sea urchin pigmentation influences the microbiome, Dryad, Dataset,


Organisms living on the seafloor are subject to encrustations by a wide variety of animal, plants, and microbes. Remarkably though, sea urchins thwart this covering. Despite having a sophisticated immune system, there is no clear mechanism that allows sea urchins to remain clean. Here, by using CRISPR/Cas9, we test that pigments in sea urchin spines influences their interaction with the microbes in vivo. Knocking out the gene activity of two pigment biosynthesis genes (polyketide synthase and flavin-dependent mono-oxygenase) supports the premise that pigmentation influences microbiome of sea urchin spines in vivo. This was supported further by distinct microbial communities of species with different pigmentations and color variants within a host species. We, therefore, find it plausible that host pigments are involved in host-microbe interactions and potentially in symbiotic homeostasis.