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  1. Abstract

    Corals and sponges harbor diverse microbial communities that are integral to the functioning of the host. While the taxonomic diversity of their microbiomes has been well-established for corals and sponges, their functional roles are less well-understood. It is unclear if the similarities of symbiosis in an invertebrate host would result in functionally similar microbiomes, or if differences in host phylogeny and environmentally driven microhabitats within each host would shape functionally distinct communities. Here we addressed this question, using metatranscriptomic and 16S rRNA gene profiling techniques to compare the microbiomes of two host organisms from different phyla. Our results indicate functional similarity in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur assimilation, and aerobic nitrogen cycling. Additionally, there were few statistical differences in pathway coverage or abundance between the two hosts. For example, we observed higher coverage of phosphonate and siderophore metabolic pathways in the star coral,Montastraea cavernosa, while there was higher coverage of chloroalkane metabolism in the giant barrel sponge,Xestospongia muta. Higher abundance of genes associated with carbon fixation pathways was also observed inM. cavernosa, while inX. mutathere was higher abundance of fatty acid metabolic pathways. Metagenomic predictions based on 16S rRNA gene profiling analysis were similar, and there was high correlation betweenmore »the metatranscriptome and metagenome predictions for both hosts. Our results highlight several metabolic pathways that exhibit functional similarity in these coral and sponge microbiomes despite the taxonomic differences between the two microbiomes, as well as potential specialization of some microbially based metabolism within each host.

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