Comparison of channel catfish and blue catfish gut microbiota assemblages shows minimal effects of host genetics on microbial structure and inferred function

Jacob W. Bledsoe, Geoffrey C. Waldbieser, Kelly S. Swanson, Brian C. Peterson, Brian C. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The microbiota of teleost fish has gained a great deal of research attention within the past decade, with experiments suggesting that both host-genetics and environment are strong ecological forces shaping the bacterial assemblages of fish microbiomes. Despite representing great commercial and scientific importance, the catfish within the family Ictaluridae, specifically the blue and channel catfish, have received very little research attention directed toward their gut-associated microbiota using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Within this study we utilize multiple genetically distinct strains of blue and channel catfish, verified via microsatellite genotyping, to further quantify the role of host-genetics in shaping the bacterial communities in the fish gut, while maintaining environmental and husbandry parameters constant. Comparisons of the gut microbiota among the two catfish species showed no differences in bacterial species richness (observed and Chao1) or overall composition (weighted and unweighted UniFrac) and UniFrac distances showed no correlation with host genetic distances (Rst) according to Mantel tests. The microbiota of environmental samples (diet and water) were found to be significantly more diverse than that of the catfish gut associated samples, suggesting that factors within the host were further regulating the bacterial communities, despite the lack of a clear connection between microbiota composition and host genotype. The catfish gut communities were dominated by the phyla Fusobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Firmicutes; however, differential abundance analysis between the two catfish species using analysis of composition of microbiomes detected two differential genera, Cetobacterium and Clostridium XI. The metagenomic pathway features inferred from our dataset suggests the catfish gut bacterial communities possess pathways beneficial to their host such as those involved in nutrient metabolism and antimicrobial biosynthesis, while also containing pathways involved in virulence factors of pathogens. Testing of the inferred KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) pathways by DESeq2 revealed minor difference in microbiota function, with only two metagenomic pathways detected as differentially abundant between the two catfish species. As the first study to characterize the gut microbiota of blue catfish, our study results have direct implications on future ictalurid catfish research. Additionally, our insight into the intrinsic factors driving microbiota structure has basic implications for the future study of fish gut microbiota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1073
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 23 2018


  • Aquaculture microbiology
  • Blue catfish
  • Channel catfish
  • Environmental microbiota
  • Fish microbiome
  • Ictaluridae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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