Gut microbiome shapes various aspects of a host's physiology, but these functions in aquatic animal hosts have yet to be fully investigated. The sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus Selenka is one such example. The large growth gap in their body size has delayed the development of intensive aquaculture, nevertheless the species is in urgent need of conservation. To understand possible contributions of the gut microbiome to its host's growth, individual fecal microbiome comparisons were performed. High-throughput 16S rRNA sequencing revealed significantly different microbiota in larger and smaller individuals; Rhodobacterales in particular was the most significantly abundant bacterial group in the larger specimens. Further shotgun metagenome of representative samples revealed a significant abundance of microbiome retaining polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) metabolism genes in the largest individual. The PHB metabolism reads were potentially derived from Rhodobacterales. These results imply a possible link between microbial PHB producers and potential growth promotion in Deuterostomia marine invertebrates.
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