Characterization of External Mucosal Microbiomes of Nile Tilapia and Grey Mullet Co-cultured in Semi-Intensive Pond Systems



Elsheshtawy A, Clokie BGJ, Albalat A, Beveridge A, Hamza A, Ibrahim A & MacKenzie S (2021) Characterization of External Mucosal Microbiomes of Nile Tilapia and Grey Mullet Co-cultured in Semi-Intensive Pond Systems. Frontiers in Microbiology, 12, Art. No.: 773860.

The external mucosal surfaces of the fish harbor complex microbial communities, which may play pivotal roles in the physiological, metabolic, and immunological status of the host. Currently, little is known about the composition and role of these communities, whether they are species and/or tissue specific and whether they reflect their surrounding environment. Co-culture of fish, a common practice in semi-intensive aquaculture, where different fish species cohabit in the same contained environment, is an easily accessible and informative model toward understanding such interactions. This study provides the first in-depth characterization of gill and skin microbiomes in co-cultured Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and grey mullet (Mugil capito) in semi-intensive pond systems in Egypt using 16S rRNA gene-based amplicon sequencing. Results showed that the microbiome composition of the external surfaces of both species and pond water was dominated by the following bacterial phyla: Proteobacteria, Fusobacteriota, Firmicutes, Planctomycetota, Verrucomicrobiota, Bacteroidota, and Actinobacteriota. However, water microbial communities had the highest abundance and richness and significantly diverged from the external microbiome of both species; thus, the external autochthonous communities are not a passive reflection of their allochthonous communities. The autochthonous bacterial communities of the skin were distinct from those of the gill in both species, indicating that the external microbiome is likely organ specific. However, gill autochthonous communities were clearly species specific, whereas skin communities showed higher commonalities between both species. Core microbiome analysis identified the presence of shared core taxa between both species and pond water in addition to organ-specific taxa within and between the core community of each species. These core taxa included possibly beneficial genera such as Uncultured Pirellulaceae, Exiguobacterium, and Cetobacterium and opportunistic potential pathogens such as Aeromonas, Plesiomonas, and Vibrio. This study provides the first in-depth mapping of bacterial communities in this semi-intensive system that in turn provides a foundation for further studies toward enhancing the health and welfare of these cultured fish and ensuring sustainability.

Oreochromis niloticus; Mugil capito; gill microbiota; skin microbiota; aquaculture; polyculture

Frontiers in Microbiology: Volume 12

FundersThe British Council
Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online13/12/2021
Date accepted by journal10/11/2021
PublisherFrontiers Media SA

People (3)


Dr Amaya Albalat

Dr Amaya Albalat

Senior Lecturer, Institute of Aquaculture

Dr Benjamin Clokie

Dr Benjamin Clokie

Lect in Aquatic Health & Host-Env. Int., Institute of Aquaculture

Professor Simon MacKenzie

Professor Simon MacKenzie

Professor & Head of Inst of Aquaculture, Institute of Aquaculture