The digestive organs of terrestrial isopods harbor bacteria of the recently proposed mollicute family Hepatoplasmataceae. The only complete genome available so far for Hepatoplasmataceae is that of “Candidatus Hepatoplasma crinochetorum”. The scarcity of genome sequences has hampered our understanding of the symbiotic relationship between isopods and mollicutes. Here, we present four complete metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) of uncultured Hepatoplasmataceae members identified from shotgun sequencing data of isopods. We propose genomospecies names for three MAGs that show substantial sequence divergence from any previously known Hepoatoplamsataceae members: “Candidatus Tyloplasma littoralis” identified from the semiterrestrial isopod Tylos granuliferus, “Candidatus Hepatoplasma vulgare” identified from the common pill bug Armadillidium vulgare, and “Candidatus Hepatoplasma scaber” identified from the common rough woodlouse Porcellio scaber. Phylogenomic analysis of 155 mollicutes confirmed that Hepatoplasmataceae is a sister clade of Metamycoplasmataceae in the order Mycoplasmoidales. 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences and phylogenomic analysis showed that “Candidatus Tyloplasma littoralis” and other semiterrestrial isopod-associated mollicutes represent the placeholder genus “g_Bg2” in the r214 release of the Genome Taxonomy Database, warranting their assignment to a novel genus. Our analysis also revealed that that Hepatoplasmataceae lack major metabolic pathways but has a likely intact type IIA CRISPR-Cas9 machinery. Although the localization of the Hepatoplasmatacae members have not been verified microscopically in this study, these genomic characteristics are compatible with the idea that these mollicutes have an ectosymbiotic lifestyle with high nutritional dependence on their host, as has been demonstrated for other members of the family. We could not find evidence that Hepatoplasmataceae encode polysaccharide-degrading enzymes that aid host digestion. If they are to provide nutritional benefits, it may be through extra-copy nucleases, peptidases, and a patatin-like lipase. Exploration of potential host-symbiont interaction-associated genes revealed large, repetitive open reading frames harboring beta-sandwich domains, possibly involved with host cell adhesion. Overall, genomic analyses suggest that isopod-mollicute symbiosis is not characterized by carbohydrate degradation, and we speculate on their potential role as defensive symbionts through spatial competition with pathogens to prevent infection.

This study was supported by the:
  • Japan Science and Technology Corporation (Award JPMJSA1806)
    • Principle Award Recipient: Ikuo Hirono
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Award JP15H02462)
    • Principle Award Recipient: Ikuo Hirono
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Award JP19H00949)
    • Principle Award Recipient: Ikuo Hirono
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Award 19J21518)
    • Principle Award Recipient: Satoshi Kawato
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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Supplementary material 1

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