Methods and Strategies to Uncover Coral-Associated Microbial Dark Matter

by Júnia Schultz, Flúvio Modolon, Alexandre S. Rosado, Christian Voolstra, Michael Sweet, Raquel Peixoto
Scientific paper Year: 2022 DOI: 10.1128/msystems.00367-22

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The vast majority of environmental microbes have not yet been cultured, and most of the knowledge on coral-associated microbes (CAMs) has been generated from amplicon sequencing and metagenomes. However, exploring cultured CAMs is key for a detailed and comprehensive characterization of the roles of these microbes in shaping coral health and, ultimately, for their biotechnological use as, for example, coral probiotics and other natural products. Here, the strategies and technologies that have been used to access cultured CAMs are presented, while advantages and disadvantages associated with each of these strategies are discussed. We highlight the existing gaps and potential improvements in culture-dependent methodologies, indicating several possible alternatives (including culturomics and in situ diffusion devices) that could be applied to retrieve the CAM “dark matter” (i.e., the currently undescribed CAMs). This study provides the most comprehensive synthesis of the methodologies used to recover the cultured coral microbiome to date and draws suggestions for the development of the next generation of CAM culturomics.