Zebrafish gills contain distinct Nitrosomonas species

Date of news: 3 July 2023

Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) are increasingly being used to grow fish, as intensive water reuse reduces water consumption and environmental impact. RAS use biofilters containing nitrogen-cycling microorganisms that remove ammonia from the aquaculture water. Knowledge of how RAS microbial communities relate to the fish-associated microbiome is limited, as is knowledge of fish-associated microbiota in general. Recently, nitrogen-cycling bacteria have been discovered in zebrafish and carp gills and shown to detoxify ammonia in a manner similar to the RAS biofilter. Researchers from Microbiology and Animal Physiology, working together in the Radboud Zebrafish facility, compared RAS water and biofilter microbiomes with fish-associated gut and gill microbial communities in laboratory RAS housing either zebrafish (Danio rerio) or common carp (Cyprinus carpio) using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing.


The phylogeny of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in the gills and the RAS environment was investigated in more detail by phylogenetic analysis of the ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA). The location from which the microbiome was sampled (RAS compartments and gills or gut) had a stronger effect on community composition than the fish species, but species-specific differences were also observed. They found that carp- and zebrafish-associated microbiomes were highly distinct from their respective RAS microbiomes, characterized by lower overall diversity and a small core microbiome consisting of taxa specifically adapted to the respective organ. The gill microbiome was also defined by a high proportion of unique taxa. Finally, it was found that amoA sequences from the gills were distinct from those from the RAS biofilter and water. The results showed that the gut and gill microbiomes of carp and zebrafish share a common and species-specific core microbiome that is distinct from the microbially-rich RAS environment.

Read the article published in Science of the Total Environment here.