- Open Access
Complete genome sequence of Candidatus Ruthia magnifica
- Guus Roeselers1, 2,
- Irene L. G. Newton1, 3,
- Tanja Woyke4,
- Thomas A. Auchtung1,
- Geoffrey F. Dilly1,
- Rachel J. Dutton5,
- Meredith C. Fisher1,
- Kristina M. Fontanez1,
- Evan Lau1,
- Frank J. Stewart1,
- Paul M. Richardson4,
- Kerrie W. Barry4,
- Elizabeth Saunders4,
- John C. Detter4,
- Dongying Wu6,
- Jonathan A. Eisen6 and
- Colleen M. Cavanaugh1Email author
© The Author(s) 2010
- Published: 31 October 2010
The hydrothermal vent clam Calyptogena magnifica (Bivalvia: Mollusca) is a member of the Vesicomyidae. Species within this family form symbioses with chemosynthetic Gammaproteobacteria. They exist in environments such as hydrothermal vents and cold seeps and have a rudimentary gut and feeding groove, indicating a large dependence on their endosymbionts for nutrition. The C. magnifica symbiont, Candidatus Ruthia magnifica, was the first intracellular sulfur-oxidizing endosymbiont to have its genome sequenced (Newton et al. 2007). Here we expand upon the original report and provide additional details complying with the emerging MIGS/MIMS standards. The complete genome exposed the genetic blueprint of the metabolic capabilities of the symbiont. Genes which were predicted to encode the proteins required for all the metabolic pathways typical of free-living chemoautotrophs were detected in the symbiont genome. These include major pathways including carbon fixation, sulfur oxidation, nitrogen assimilation, as well as amino acid and cofactor/vitamin biosynthesis. This genome sequence is invaluable in the study of these enigmatic associations and provides insights into the origin and evolution of autotrophic endosymbiosis.
- Hydrothermal vent
Chemosynthetic symbioses, initially discovered at hydrothermal vents, also exist in shallow mud flats and seagrass beds, and deep sea cold methane seeps . In each case it is clear that these symbioses play major roles in community structuring and sulfur and carbon cycling. However, despite the widespread occurrence of these partnerships, little is known of the intricacies of host-symbiont interaction or symbiont metabolism due to their inaccessibility and our inability to culture either partner separately.
The giant clam, Calyptogena magnifica Boss and Turner (Bivalvia: Vesicomyidae), was one of the first organisms described after the discovery of hydrothermal vents. Vesicomyidae is a relatively old family, with fossil records and phylogenies dating them at 50–100 Ma . C. magnifica grows to a large size (>26 cm in length), despite having a reduced gut and ciliary food groove , presenting a conundrum regarding how it acquires sufficient nutrients. The discovery of chemoautotrophic, Gammaproteobacterial endosymbionts, now named Candidatus Ruthia magnifica (in memory of Prof. Ruth Turner), within C. magnifica gill bacteriocytes [4,5] helped to solve the mystery surrounding the nutrition of this clam. The host depends largely on these endosymbionts for its carbon, as indicated by its anatomy and by stable carbon isotopic ratios . However, how the host satisfies the rest of its nutritional requirements remained unknown.
Vesicomyid symbionts are presumed to be obligately symbiotic as they have a relatively reduced genome size [7–9], and are transmitted vertically between successive host generations via the egg . Evidence has been presented indicating a single Gammaproteobacterial symbiont is present in vesicomyids that have been examined via rRNA phylotyping . However recent evidence suggests that vesicomyids may harbor two symbiont phylotypes, both of which fall into the same clade but are distinct phylotypes. Thus the clams may acquire divergent symbionts laterally via uptake from an environmental population or horizontal transfer from co-occurring hosts .
Classification and general features of Candidatus Ruthia magnifica according to the MIGS recommendations.
Gammaproteobacteria unclassified sulfur-oxidizing symbionts
Candidatus Ruthia magnifica
Terminal electron receptor
endosymbiont, marine, host, hydrothermal vents
9-North, East Pacific Rise, Hydrothermal vents
Sample collection time
9° 51′ N
104° 18′ W
Candidatus Ruthia magnifica is the chemosynthetic gill endosymbiont of the giant clam, Calyptogena magnifica Boss and Turner (Bivalvia: Vesicomyidae) (Figure 1). Vesicomyid clams are conspicuous fauna at many deep-sea hydrothermal-vent and cold-seep habitats. Candidatus R. magnifica, a member of the phylum Gammaproteobacteria, falls within the vesicomyid symbiont clade which is a sister group to vent and seep mussel chemosynthetic symbionts of the subfamily Bathymolidinae (Figure 2).
The Calyptogena magnifica symbiont Candidatus Ruthia magnifica was selected for sequencing because this symbiosis is one of the dominant macrofauna at vent sites in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Knowledge of the metabolic capabilities of this symbiosis provides new perspectives on the coupling of carbon and sulfur fluxes in the deep-sea, a substantial reservoir in the global carbon cycle. In addition, this genome provides insights into the origin and evolution of autotrophic endosymbiosis. This project was funded by a US Department of Energy as part of the Joint Genome Institute Community Sequencing Program.
3kb pUC, 8kb pMCL, and fosmid
Gene calling method
DOE Joint Genome Institute
Genome Database release
March 1, 2007
NCBI project ID
Genbank Date of Release
November 29, 2006
Vent ecosystems, Chemosynthetic symbiosis, Environmental microbiology
Calyptogena magnifica clams were collected using DSV Alvin at the East Pacific Rise, 9°N vent field, during a cruise on the R/V Atlantis in December 2004. Symbiont containing gills were dissected out of the clams, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and kept at −80°C until processed in the lab. Gill tissues were ground in liquid nitrogen, placed in lysis buffer (20 mM EDTA, 10 mM Tris-HCl, pH 7.9, 0.5 mg/ml lysozyme, 1% Triton X-100, 200 mM NaCl, 500 mM guanidine-HCl,) and incubated at 40°C for 2 hr. After subsequent RNase (20 µg/ml, 37°C, 30 min) and proteinase K (20 µg/ml, 50°C, 1.5 hr) treatments, the samples were centrifuged and the supernatant was transferred onto Qiagen Genomic Tip columns and processed according to manufacturer’s protocol (QIAGEN, Valencia, CA).
The genome was sequenced by Sanger sequencing of 3kb, 8kb and fosmid libraries. All general aspects of construction and sequencing performed at the JGI can be found on the JGI website.
Briefly, 22.15 Mb of phred Q20 sequence were generated: 9.43 Mb from 13,755 reads from the small insert pUC library, 8.79 Mb from 13,824 reads from the medium insert pMCL library, and 3.93 Mb from 9,216 reads from the fosmid library. The DNA sequences derived from the Candidatus Ruthia magnifica libraries were estimated to be 20% contaminated with the Calyptogena magnifica host genome. Although this level of contamination could confound finishing efforts, the bacterial genome was readily identifiable in this study. The 36,795 sequencing reads were blasted against a database containing all mollusk sequences available in Genbank and the 4× draft gastropod Lottia gigantea genome sequence available at the JGI. A total of 498 reads were removed based on hits to this mollusk database.
The remaining 24,595 reads were base called, vector trimmed, and assembled using parallel phrap. One large, bacterial scaffold containing the Candidatus R. magnifica 16S rRNA gene resulted. The R. magnifica scaffold consisted of only 2 contigs spanned by 33 fosmid clones, contained 17,307 reads, 1,156,121 consensus bp, was covered by an average read depth of 14×, and had a G+C content of 34%. The next largest scaffold was only 29 kb long, with an average read depth of ∼7× and an average G+C content of 55%. BLASTn indicated that this latter scaffold encoded ribosomal genes closely related to those of Caenorhabditis briggsae and its binning (based on GC content and read depth) with a small scaffold containing the C. magnifica 18S rRNA gene confirmed its eukaryotic host origin.
The DNA sequence was submitted to the TIGR auto-annotation pipeline (currently hosted at JCVI). Included in the pipeline is gene finding with Glimmer , Blast-extend-repraze (BER) searches, HMM searches, TMHMM searches, SignalP predictions, and automatic annotations from AutoAnnotate. The output from the TIGR Annotation Service was transferred to a MySQL database. Additional gene prediction analysis and manual functional annotation was performed using Manatee (http://manatee.sourceforge.net) .
The metabolic Pathway/Genome Database (PGDB) was computationally generated by the Pathologic program using Pathway Tools software version 14.0  and MetaCyc version 13.1 , based on annotated EC numbers and a customized enzyme name mapping file. The PGDB has not been subjected to manual curation and may contain errors.
Nucleotide content and gene count levels of the genome
Genome size (bp)
DNA G+C content (bp)
DNA coding region (bp)
Other RNA genes
Protein coding genes with function prediction
Genes in paralog clusters
Protein coding genes connected to KEGG pathways
Genes assigned to COGs
Genes with signal peptides
Genes with transmembrane helices
Number of genes associated with the general COG functional categories
Translation, ribosomal structure and biogenesis
RNA processing and modification
Replication, recombination and repair
Chromatin structure and dynamics
Cell cycle control, mitosis and meiosis
Signal transduction mechanisms
Cell wall/membrane biogenesis
Intracellular trafficking and secretion
Posttranslational modification, protein turnover, chaperones
Energy production and conversion
Carbohydrate transport and metabolism
Amino acid transport and metabolism
Nucleotide transport and metabolism
Coenzyme transport and metabolism
Lipid transport and metabolism
Inorganic ion transport and metabolism
Secondary metabolites biosynthesis, transport and catabolism
General function prediction only
Not in COGs
Metabolic Network Statistics
The Candidatus R. magnifica genome has revealed striking differences between the chemosynthetic endosymbiont genomes and those of other obligate mutualistic symbionts for which genomic data are available. The genome is small (1.1 Mb) and has a low G+C content (34%) compared to free-living sulfur oxidizing proteobacteria . These common features of endosymbionts are likely the result of genome reduction and accumulation of point mutations that occur over evolutionary time across diverse symbiont species . This trend has been observed in recently evolved symbioses such the insect endosymbionts (30–250 Ma) , as well as in chloroplasts (∼1,800-2,100 Ma) .
However, Candidatus R. magnifica stands out in that its genome is relatively large for a maternally transmitted endosymbiont. For example, the genomes of the Gammaproteobacterial Buchnera which are endosymbionts of aphids, are ∼85% smaller than closely related free-living species like E. coli. In contrast, the genome of Candidatus R. magnifica is ∼24% the size of E. coli K12 and ∼55% smaller than Thiomicrospira crunogena, a free-living, Gammaproteobacterial, sulfur-oxidizing chemoautotroph isolated from vents .
The genome lacks any form of mobile DNA content. Neither transposon- nor phage-related sequences were identified except for the putative prophage repressor gene LexA (EC 184.108.40.206).
The genome encodes enzymes specific for carbon fixation via the Calvin cycle; including a form II ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (RuBisCO, EC 220.127.116.11) and phosphoribulokinase (EC 18.104.22.168) . Energy for carbon fixation appears to be derived from sulfur oxidation via the “sulfur oxidation (sox) pathway” and dsr (dissimilatory sulfite reductase) pathway .
Remarkably, the genome lacks the Calvin cycle homologs sedoheptulose 1,7-bis-phosphatase (SBPase, EC 22.214.171.124) and fructose 1,6-bis-phosphatase (FBPase, EC 126.96.36.199), suggesting that the regeneration of ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate may not follow conventional pathways . Instead, the genome contains a reversible pyrophosphate-dependent phosphofructokinase (EC 188.8.131.52) homolog that may be used to generate fructose 6-phosphate .
The central intermediary metabolism of Candidatus R. magnifica produces all the intermediates necessary for the synthesis of amino acids, nucleotides, fatty acids, vitamins and cofactors, which are thought to be supplied to the host . Notably, the symbiont lacks homologs of fumarate reductase, succinate dehydrogenase, and succinyl-coA synthase. However, the genome encodes isocitrate lyase, part of the glyoxylate shunt, suggesting succinate production from isocitrate .
Although able to synthesize 10 vitamins/cofactors, the cobalamin (B12) biosynthesis pathway is conspicuously absent . Since cobalamin is a cofactor for methionine synthase  and since Candidatus R. magnifica encodes a cobalamin-independent methionine synthase, the host might not require cobalamin.
Several transporters involved in chemoautotrophy (sulfate exporters), nitrogen assimilation (nitrate and ammonium transporters), inorganic compounds (TrkAH, MgtE family, CaCA family and PiT family), and heavy metals (ZnuABC, RND superfamily, iron permeases) were identified .
The diverse metabolic capabilities of Candidatus R. magnifica, inferred from the genome sequence, confirm and extend our understanding of host nutritional dependency.
This research was funded by a grant from the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy to CMC and JAE, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship to ILGN and a Rubicon grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to GR. The work was conducted in part at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, which is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. We thank Eddy Rubin and David Bruce for project management.
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