Chemosynthetic symbiosis is one of the successful systems for adapting to a wide range of habitats including extreme environments, and the metabolic capabilities of symbionts enable host organisms to expand their habitat ranges. However, our understanding of the adaptive strategies that enable symbiotic organisms to expand their habitats is still fragmentary. Here, we report that a single-ribotype endosymbiont population in an individual of the host vent mussel, Bathymodiolus septemdierum has heterogeneous genomes with regard to the composition of key metabolic gene clusters for hydrogen oxidation and nitrate reduction. The host individual harbours heterogeneous symbiont subpopulations that either possess or lack the gene clusters encoding hydrogenase or nitrate reductase. The proportions of the different symbiont subpopulations in a host appeared to vary with the environment or with the host's development. Furthermore, the symbiont subpopulations were distributed in patches to form a mosaic pattern in the gill. Genomic heterogeneity in an endosymbiont population may enable differential utilization of diverse substrates and confer metabolic flexibility. Our findings open a new chapter in our understanding of how symbiotic organisms alter their metabolic capabilities and expand their range of habitats.
Journal: The ISME journal