Many biologically active natural products have been isolated from Phakellia fusca, an indigenous sponge in the South China Sea; however, the microbial symbionts of Phakellia fusca remain unknown. The present investigations on sponge microbial community are mainly based on qualitative analysis, while quantitative analysis, e.g., relative abundance, is rarely carried out, and little is known about the roles of microbial symbionts. In this study, the community structure and relative abundance of bacteria, actinobacteria, and archaea associated with Phakellia fusca were revealed by 16S rRNA gene library-based sequencing and quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR). The ammonia-oxidizing populations were investigated based on amoA gene and anammox-specific 16S rRNA gene libraries. As a result, it was found that bacterial symbionts of sponge Phakellia fusca consist of Proteobacteria including Gamma-, Alpha-, and Delta-proteobacteria, Cyanobacteria with Gamma-proteobacteria as the predominant components. In particular, the diversity of actinobacterial symbionts in Phakellia fusca is high, which is composed of Corynebacterineae, Acidimicrobidae, Frankineae, Micrococcineae, and Streptosporangineae. All the observed archaea in sponge Phakellia fusca belong to Crenarchaeota, and the detected ammonia-oxidizing populations are ammonia-oxidizing archaea, suggesting the nitrification function of sponge archaeal symbionts. According to qRT-PCR analysis, bacterial symbionts dominated the microbial community, while archaea represented the second predominant symbionts, followed by actinobacteria. The revealed diverse prokaryotic symbionts of Phakellia fusca are valuable for the understanding and in-depth utilization of Phakellia fusca microbial symbionts. This study extends our knowledge of the community, especially the relative abundance of microbial symbionts in sponges.
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