Census of bacterial microbiota associated with the glacier ice worm Mesenchytraeus solifugus

Takumi Murakami, Takahiro Segawa, Dylan Bodington, Roman Dial, Nozomu Takeuchi, Shiro Kohshima, Yuichi Hongoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The glacier ice worm, Mesenchytraeus solifugus, is a unique annelid, inhabiting only snow and ice in North American glaciers. Here, we analyzed the taxonomic composition of bacteria associated with M. solifugus based on the 16S rRNA gene. We analyzed four fixed-on-site and 10 starved ice worm individuals, along with glacier surface samples. In total, 1341 clones of 16S rRNA genes were analyzed for the ice worm samples, from which 65 bacterial phylotypes (99.0% cut-off) were identified. Of these, 35 phylotypes were closely related to sequences obtained from their habitat glacier and/or other components of cryosphere; whereas three dominant phylotypes were affiliated with animal-associated lineages of the class Mollicutes. Among the three, phylotype Ms-13 shared less than 89% similarity with database sequences and was closest to a gut symbiont of a terrestrial earthworm. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization, Ms-13 was located on the gut wall surface of the ice worms. We propose a novel genus and species, 'Candidatus Vermiplasma glacialis', for this bacterium. Our results raise the possibility that the ice worm has exploited indigenous glacier bacteria, while several symbiotic bacterial lineages have maintained their association with the ice worm during the course of adaptive evolution to the permanently cold environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiv003
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

This study was financially supported by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for Promotion of Science to S.K (22241005 and 26241020) and Y.H. (23117003) and the NEXT program to Y.H.

© FEMS 2015. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


  • Animals
  • Annelida/microbiology
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Tract/microbiology
  • Ice Cover/microbiology
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Microbiota/genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Tenericutes/classification


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