Many insect species harbor Wolbachia bacteria that induce cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), i.e. embryonic lethality in crosses between infected males and uninfected females, or between males and females carrying incompatible Wolbachia strains. The molecular mechanism of CI remains unknown, but the available data are best interpreted under a modification–rescue model, where a mod function disables the reproductive success of infected males’ sperm, unless the eggs are infected and express a compatible resc function. Here we examine the evolution of CI in the mosquito Culex pipiens, harbouring a large number of closely related Wolbachia strains structured in five distinct phylogenetic groups. Specifically, we used a worldwide sample of mosquito lines to assess the hypothesis that genetic divergence should correlate with the divergence of CI properties on a low evolutionary scale. We observed a significant association of Wolbachia genetic divergence with CI patterns. Most Wolbachia strains from the same group were compatible whereas those from different groups were often incompatible. Consistently, we found a strong association between Wolbachia groups and their mod-resc properties. Finally, lines from the same geographical area were rarely incompatible, confirming the conjecture that the spatial distribution of Wolbachia compatibility types should be constrained by selection. This study indicates a clear correlation between Wolbachia genotypes and CI properties, paving the way toward the identification of the molecular basis of CI through comparative genomics.
Development and optimization of novel species-specific microsatellites, or simple sequence repeats (SSRs) remains an important step for studies in ecology, evolution, and behavior. Numerous approaches exist for identifying new SSRs that vary widely in terms of both time and cost investments. A recent approach of using paired-end Illumina sequence data in conjunction with the bioinformatics pipeline, PAL_FINDER, has the potential to substantially reduce the cost and labor investment while also improving efficiency. However, it does not appear that the approach has been widely adopted, perhaps due to concerns over its broad applicability across taxa. Therefore, to validate the utility of the approach we developed SSRs for 32 species representing 30 families, 25 orders, 11 classes, and six phyla and optimized SSRs for 13 of the species. Overall the IPE method worked extremely well and we identified 1000s of SSRs for all species (mean = 128,485), with 17% of loci being potentially amplifiable loci, and 25% of these met our most stringent criteria designed to that avoid SSRs associated with repetitive elements. Approximately 61% of screened primers yielded strong amplification of a single locus.
We investigated the interactions between snowpack chemistry, mercury (Hg) contamination and microbial community structure and function in Arctic snow. Snowpack chemistry (inorganic and organic ions) including mercury (Hg) speciation was studied in samples collected during a two-month field study in a high Arctic site, Svalbard, Norway (79°N). Shifts in microbial community structure were determined by using a 16S rRNA gene phylogenetic microarray. We linked snowpack and meltwater chemistry to changes in microbial community structure by using co-inertia analyses (CIA) and explored changes in community function due to Hg contamination by q-PCR quantification of Hg-resistance genes in metagenomic samples. Based on the CIA, chemical and microbial data were linked (p = 0.006) with bioavailable Hg (BioHg) and methylmercury (MeHg) contributing significantly to the ordination of samples. Mercury was shown to influence community function with increases in merA gene copy numbers at low BioHg levels. Our results show that snowpacks can be considered as dynamic habitats with microbial and chemical components responding rapidly to environmental changes.
The diversity and specificity of microbial communities in marine environments is a key aspect of the ecology and evolution of both the eukaryotic hosts and their associated prokaryotes. Marine sponges harbor phylogenetically diverse and complex microbial lineages. Here, we investigated the sponge bacterial community and distribution patterns of microbes in three sympatric intertidal marine demosponges, Hymeniacidon perlevis, Ophlitaspongia papilla and Polymastia penicillus, from the Atlantic coast of Portugal using classical isolation techniques and 16S rRNA gene clone libraries. Microbial composition assessment, with nearly full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences (ca. 1400 bp) from the isolates (n = 31) and partial sequences (ca. 280 bp) from clone libraries (n = 349), revealed diverse bacterial communities and other sponge-associated microbes. The majority of the bacterial isolates were members of the order Vibrionales and other symbiotic bacteria like Pseudovibrio ascidiaceiocola, Roseobacter sp., Hahellaceae sp. and Cobetia sp. Extended analyses using ecological metrics comprising 142 OTUs supported the clear differentiation of bacterial community profiles among the sponge hosts and their ambient seawater. Phylogenetic analyses were insightful in defining clades representing shared bacterial communities, particularly between H. perlevis and the geographically distantly-related H. heliophila, but also among other sponges. Furthermore, we also observed three distinct and unique bacterial groups, Betaproteobactria (∼81%), Spirochaetes (∼7%) and Chloroflexi (∼3%), which are strictly maintained in low-microbial-abundance host species O. papilla and P. penicillus. Our study revealed the largely generalist nature of microbial associations among these co-occurring intertidal marine sponges.
The bacterial microbiomes of citrus plants were characterized in response to ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (Las)-infection and treatments with ampicillin (Amp) and gentamicin (Gm) by Phylochip-based metagenomics. The results revealed that 7,407 of over 50,000 known Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) in 53 phyla were detected in citrus leaf midribs using the PhyloChip™ G3 array, of which five phyla were dominant, Proteobacteria (38.7%), Firmicutes (29.0%), Actinobacteria (16.1%), Bacteroidetes (6.2%) and Cyanobacteria (2.3%). The OTU62806, representing ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’, was present with a high titer in the plants graft-inoculated with Las-infected scions treated with Gm at 100 mg/L and in the water-treated control (CK1). However, the Las bacterium was not detected in the plants graft-inoculated with Las-infected scions treated with Amp at 1.0 g/L or in plants graft-inoculated with Las-free scions (CK2). The PhyloChip array demonstrated that more OTUs, at a higher abundance, were detected in the Gm-treated plants than in the other treatment and the controls. Pairwise comparisons indicated that 23 OTUs from the Achromobacter spp. and 12 OTUs from the Methylobacterium spp. were more abundant in CK2 and CK1, respectively. Ten abundant OTUs from the Stenotrophomonas spp. were detected only in the Amp-treatment. These results provide new insights into microbial communities that may be associated with the progression of citrus huanglongbing (HLB) and the potential effects of antibiotics on the disease and microbial ecology.
Olive mill wastes (OMWs) are high-strength organic effluents, which upon disposal can degrade soil and water quality, negatively affecting aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The main purpose of this review paper is to provide an up-to-date knowledge concerning the microbial communities identified over the past 20 years in olive mill wastes using both culture-dependent and independent approaches. A database survey of 16S rRNA gene sequences (585 records in total) obtained from olive mill waste environments revealed the dominance of members of Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Actinobacteria. Independent studies confirmed that OMW microbial communities' structure is cultivar dependant. On the other hand, the detection of fecal bacteria and other potential human pathogens in OMWs is of major concern and deserves further examination. Despite the fact that the degradation and detoxification of the olive mill wastes have been mostly investigated through the application of known bacterial and fungal species originated from other environmental sources, the biotechnological potential of indigenous microbiota should be further exploited in respect to olive mill waste bioremediation and inactivation of plant and human pathogens. The implementation of omic and metagenomic approaches will further elucidate disposal issues of olive mill wastes.
Assessments of bacterial community diversity and dynamics are fundamental for the understanding of microbial ecology as well as biotechnological applications. We show that the choice of PCR primers has great impact on the results of analyses of diversity and dynamics using gene libraries and DNA fingerprinting. Two universal primer pairs targeting the 16S rRNA gene, 27F&1492R and 63F&M1387R, were compared and evaluated by analyzing the bacterial community in the activated sludge of a large-scale wastewater treatment plant. The two primer pairs targeted distinct parts of the bacterial community, none encompassing the other, both with similar richness. Had only one primer pair been used, very different conclusions had been drawn regarding dominant phylogenetic and putative functional groups. With 27F&1492R, Betaproteobacteria would have been determined to be the dominating taxa while 63F&M1387R would have described Alphaproteobacteria as the most common taxa. Microscopy and fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis showed that both Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria were abundant in the activated sludge, confirming that the two primer pairs target two different fractions of the bacterial community. Furthermore, terminal restriction fragment polymorphism analyses of a series of four activated sludge samples showed that the two primer pairs would have resulted in different conclusions about community stability and the factors contributing to changes in community composition. In conclusion, different PCR primer pairs, although considered universal, target different ranges of bacteria and will thus show the diversity and dynamics of different fractions of the bacterial community in the analyzed sample. We also show that while a database search can serve as an indicator of how universal a primer pair is, an experimental assessment is necessary to evaluate the suitability for a specific environmental sample.
Tsetse flies (Diptera: Glossinidae) are the sole vectors of African trypanosomes, the causative agent of sleeping sickness in human and nagana in animals. Like most eukaryotic organisms, Glossina species have established symbiotic associations with bacteria. Three main symbiotic bacteria have been found in tsetse flies: Wigglesworthia glossinidia, an obligate symbiotic bacterium, the secondary endosymbiont Sodalis glossinidius and the reproductive symbiont Wolbachia pipientis. In the present review, we discuss recent studies on the detection and characterization of Wolbachia infections in Glossina species, the horizontal transfer of Wolbachia genes to tsetse chromosomes, the ability of this symbiont to induce cytoplasmic incompatibility in Glossina morsitans morsitans and also how new environment-friendly tools for disease control could be developed by harnessing Wolbachia symbiosis.
Glossina; Wolbachia; Insect symbiosis; Sodalis; Wigglesworthia; Paratransgenesis
Cytosine methylation is one of several reversible epigenetic modifications of DNA that allow a greater flexibility in the relationship between genotype and phenotype. Methylation in the simplest models dampens gene expression by modifying regions of DNA critical for transcription factor binding. The capacity to methylate DNA is variable in the insects due to diverse histories of gene loss and duplication of DNA methylases. Mosquitoes like Drosophila melanogaster possess only a single methylase, DNMT2.
Here we characterise the methylome of the mosquito Aedes aegypti and examine its relationship to transcription and test the effects of infection with a virulent strain of the endosymbiont Wolbachia on the stability of methylation patterns.
We see that methylation in the A. aegypti genome is associated with reduced transcription and is most common in the promoters of genes relating to regulation of transcription and metabolism. Similar gene classes are also methylated in aphids and honeybees, suggesting either conservation or convergence of methylation patterns. In addition to this evidence of evolutionary stability, we also show that infection with the virulent wMelPop Wolbachia strain induces additional methylation and demethylation events in the genome. While most of these changes seem random with respect to gene function and have no detected effect on transcription, there does appear to be enrichment of genes associated with membrane function. Given that Wolbachia lives within a membrane-bound vacuole of host origin and retains a large number of genes for transporting host amino acids, inorganic ions and ATP despite a severely reduced genome, these changes might represent an evolved strategy for manipulating the host environments for its own gain. Testing for a direct link between these methylation changes and expression, however, will require study across a broader range of developmental stages and tissues with methods that detect splice variants.
The olive fruit fly Bactrocera oleae has a unique ability to cope with olive flesh, and is the most destructive pest of olives worldwide. Its control has been largely based on the use of chemical insecticides, however, the selection of insecticide resistance against several insecticides has evolved. The study of detoxification mechanisms, which allow the olive fruit fly to defend against insecticides, and/or phytotoxins possibly present in the mesocarp, has been hampered by the lack of genomic information in this species. In the NCBI database less than 1,000 nucleotide sequences have been deposited, with less than 10 detoxification gene homologues in total. We used 454 pyrosequencing to produce, for the first time, a large transcriptome dataset for B. oleae. A total of 482,790 reads were assembled into 14,204 contigs. More than 60% of those contigs (8,630) were larger than 500 base pairs, and almost half of them matched with genes of the order of the Diptera. Analysis of the Gene Ontology (GO) distribution of unique contigs, suggests that, compared to other insects, the assembly is broadly representative for the B. oleae transcriptome. Furthermore, the transcriptome was found to contain 55 P450, 43 GST-, 15 CCE- and 18 ABC transporter-genes. Several of those detoxification genes, may putatively be involved in the ability of the olive fruit fly to deal with xenobiotics, such as plant phytotoxins and insecticides. In summary, our study has generated new data and genomic resources, which will substantially facilitate molecular studies in B. oleae, including elucidation of detoxification mechanisms of xenobiotic, as well as other important aspects of olive fruit fly biology.
Thinopyrum elongatum is an important relative of wheat, it is favored by many researchers for the disease resistant genes that exist in its E genome. Some studies have showed that the 7E chromosome of Th. elongatum contains resistance genes related to Fusarium head blight and wheat rust. Therefore, developing 7E chromosome-specific molecular markers linked to resistance genes will provide an important tool for exploring and using the resistant genes of Th. elongatum. In addition, it would greatly contribute in the effort to cultivate disease-resistant wheat varieties. Featured in high throughput, high-accuracy and low-cost, SLAF-seq technology has been widely used in molecular breeding, system evolution, and germplasm resource detection. Based on SLAF-seq, 518 specific fragments on the 7E chromosome of Th. elongatum were successfully amplified. A total of 135 primers were designed according to 135 randomly selected fragments, and 89 specific molecular markers of Th. elongatum were developed, with efficiencies up to 65.9%. These markers were all detected in a variety of materials, and they are all proved to be specific and stable. These markers can be used not only for detecting the 7E chromosome of Th. elongatum but also for providing an important theoretical and practical basis for wheat breeding by marker-assisted selection (MAS). This paper reports the first application of SLAF-seq technology with a high success rate in developing specific molecular markers for Th. elongatum, providing a strong case for the application of this new technology.
Sociality may affect symbiosis and vice versa. Many plant-sucking stinkbugs harbor mutualistic bacterial symbionts in the midgut. In the superfamily Pentatomoidea, adult females excrete symbiont-containing materials from the anus, which their offspring ingest orally and establish vertical symbiont transmission. In many stinkbug families whose members are mostly non-social, females excrete symbiont-containing materials onto/beside eggs upon oviposition. However, exceptional cases have been reported from two subsocial species representing the closely related families Cydnidae and Parastrachiidae, wherein females remain nearby eggs for maternal care after oviposition, and provide their offspring with symbiont-containing secretions at later stages, either just before or after hatching. These observations suggested that sociality of the host stinkbugs may be correlated with their symbiont transmission strategies. However, we found that cydnid stinkbugs of the genus Adomerus, which are associated with gammaproteobacterial gut symbionts and exhibit elaborate maternal care over their offspring, smear symbiont-containing secretions onto eggs upon oviposition as many non-social stinkbugs do. Surface sterilization of the eggs resulted in aposymbiotic insects of slower growth, smaller size and abnormal body coloration, indicating vertical symbiont transmission via egg surface contamination and presumable beneficial nature of the symbiosis. The Adomerus symbionts exhibited AT-biased nucleotide compositions, accelerated molecular evolutionary rates and reduced genome size, while these degenerative genomic traits were less severe than those in the symbiont of a subsocial parastrachiid. These results suggest that not only sociality but also other ecological and evolutionary aspects of the host stinkbugs, including the host-symbiont co-evolutionary history, may have substantially affected their symbiont transmission strategies. (250 words).
Gut microbiota has shown tight and coordinated connection with various functions of its host such as metabolism, immunity, energy utilization, and health maintenance. To gain insight into whether gut microbes affect the metabolism of fish, we employed fast-growing transgenic common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) to study the connections between its large body feature and gut microbes. Metagenome-based fingerprinting and high-throughput sequencing on bacterial 16S rRNA genes indicated that fish gut was dominated by Proteobacteria, Fusobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, which displayed significant differences between transgenic fish and wild-type controls. Analyses to study the association of gut microbes with the fish metabolism discovered three major phyla having significant relationships with the host metabolic factors. Biochemical and histological analyses indicated transgenic fish had increased carbohydrate but decreased lipid metabolisms. Additionally, transgenic fish has a significantly lower Bacteroidetes:Firmicutes ratio than that of wild-type controls, which is similar to mammals between obese and lean individuals. These findings suggest that gut microbiotas are associated with the growth of fast growing transgenic fish, and the relative abundance of Firmicutes over Bacteroidetes could be one of the factors contributing to its fast growth. Since the large body size of transgenic fish displays a proportional body growth, which is unlike obesity in human, the results together with the findings from others also suggest that the link between obesity and gut microbiota is likely more complex than a simple Bacteroidetes:Firmicutes ratio change.
The first complete mitochondrial genome of the lacewing family Osmylidae (Thyridosmylus langii (McLachlan, 1870)) (Neuroptera) was sequenced in this study. The genome is a circular molecule of 16,221 bp containing the typical 37 genes but is arranged in the same order as that of the putative ancestor of hexapod and lacks translocation of trnC as shared by all previously sequenced neuropteran mtDNAs. This reveals that trnC translocation does not represent an organizational synapomorphy in the mitochondrion for the entire Neuroptera clade. Comparative analysis of neuropteran tRNA genes reveals a relatively slow and conserved evolution of the mitochondrion throughout the order. Secondary structure models of the ribosomal RNA genes of T. langii largely agree with those proposed for other insect orders. Nevertheless, domain I of T. langii rrnL is consisted of nine helices rather than eight helices which is typical for neuropteran rrnL. Protein-coding genes have typical mitochondrial start codons, with the exception of COI, which uses the TCG start codon also found in Ithonidae and Chrysopidae. Like other neuropteran insects, the control region is the most AT-rich region and comparatively simple, with little evidence of conserved blocks or long tandem repeats. Considering the issues of base-compositional and branch length heterogeneity, we used a range of phylogenetic approaches to recover neuropteridan relationships and explored the effect of method choice on recovery of monophyly of Neuropterida: ((Neuroptera + Megaloptera) + Raphidioptera). The monophyly of Neuroptera and the more basal position of Osmylidae were also recovered by different datasets and phylogenetic methods.
The vertically transmitted endosymbionts (Sodalis glossinidius and Wigglesworthia glossinidia) of the tsetse fly (Diptera: Glossinidae) are known to supplement dietary deficiencies and modulate the reproductive fitness and the defense system of the fly. Some tsetse fly species are also infected with the bacterium, Wolbachia and with the Glossina hytrosavirus (GpSGHV). Laboratory-bred G. pallidipes exhibit chronic asymptomatic and acute symptomatic GpSGHV infection, with the former being the most common in these colonies. However, under as yet undefined conditions, the asymptomatic state can convert to the symptomatic state, leading to detectable salivary gland hypertrophy (SGH+) syndrome. In this study, we investigated the interplay between the bacterial symbiome and GpSGHV during development of G. pallidipes by knocking down the symbionts with antibiotic. Intrahaemocoelic injection of GpSGHV led to high virus titre (109 virus copies), but was not accompanied by either the onset of detectable SGH+, or release of detectable virus particles into the blood meals during feeding events. When the F1 generations of GpSGHV-challenged mothers were dissected within 24 h post-eclosion, SGH+ was observed to increase from 4.5% in the first larviposition cycle to >95% in the fourth cycle. Despite being sterile, these F1 SGH+ progeny mated readily. Removal of the tsetse symbiome, however, suppressed transgenerational transfer of the virus via milk secretions and blocked the ability of GpSGHV to infect salivary glands of the F1 progeny. Whereas GpSGHV infects and replicates in salivary glands of developing pupa, the virus is unable to induce SGH+ within fully differentiated adult salivary glands. The F1 SGH+ adults are responsible for the GpSGHV-induced colony collapse in tsetse factories. Our data suggest that GpSGHV has co-evolved with the tsetse symbiome and that the symbionts play key roles in the virus transmission from mother to progeny.
Pulmonate snails have remarkably high levels of mtDNA polymorphism within species and divergence between species, making them an interesting group for the study of mutation and selection on mitochondrial genomes. The availability of sequence data from most major lineages – collected largely for studies of phylogeography - provides an opportunity to perform several tests of selection that may provide general insights into the evolutionary forces that have produced this unusual pattern. Several protein coding mtDNA datasets of pulmonates were analyzed towards this direction. Two different methods for the detection of positive selection were used, one based on phylogeny, and the other on the McDonald-Kreitman test. The cyto-nuclear coevolution hypothesis, often implicated to account for the high levels of mtDNA divergence of some organisms, was also addressed by assessing the divergence pattern exhibited by a nuclear gene. The McDonald-Kreitman test indicated multiple signs of positive selection in the mtDNA genes, but was significantly biased when sequence divergence was high. The phylogenetic method identified five mtDNA datasets as affected by positive selection. In the nuclear gene, the McDonald-Kreitman test provided no significant results, whereas the phylogenetic method identified positive selection as likely present. Overall, our findings indicate that: 1) slim support for the cyto-nuclear coevolution hypothesis is present, 2) the elevated rates of mtDNA polymorphims and divergence in pulmonates do not appear to be due to pervasive positive selection, 3) more stringent tests show that spurious positive selection is uncovered when distant taxa are compared and 4) there are significant examples of positive selection acting in some cases, so it appears that mtDNA evolution in pulmonates can escape from strict deleterious evolution suggested by the Muller’s ratchet effect.
This study was prompted by increasing concerns about ecological damage and human health threats derived by persistent contamination of water and soil with herbicides, and emerging of bio-sensing technology as powerful, fast and efficient tool for the identification of such hazards. This work is aimed at overcoming principal limitations negatively affecting the whole-cell-based biosensors performance due to inadequate stability and sensitivity of the bio-recognition element. The novel bio-sensing elements for the detection of herbicides were generated exploiting the power of molecular engineering in order to improve the performance of photosynthetic complexes. The new phenotypes were produced by an in vitro directed evolution strategy targeted at the photosystem II (PSII) D1 protein of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, using exposures to radical-generating ionizing radiation as selection pressure. These tools proved successful to identify D1 mutations conferring enhanced stability, tolerance to free-radical-associated stress and competence for herbicide perception. Long-term stability tests of PSII performance revealed the mutants capability to deal with oxidative stress-related conditions. Furthermore, dose-response experiments indicated the strains having increased sensitivity or resistance to triazine and urea type herbicides with I50 values ranging from 6×10−8 M to 2×10−6 M. Besides stressing the relevance of several amino acids for PSII photochemistry and herbicide sensing, the possibility to improve the specificity of whole-cell-based biosensors, via coupling herbicide-sensitive with herbicide-resistant strains, was verified.
Aphids commonly harbor bacterial facultative symbionts that have a variety of effects upon their aphid hosts, including defense against hymenopteran parasitoids and fungal pathogens. The soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), is infected with the symbiont Arsenophonus sp., which has an unknown role in its aphid host. Our research goals were to document the infection frequency and diversity of the symbiont in field-collected soybean aphids, and to determine whether Arsenophonus is defending soybean aphid against natural enemies. We performed diagnostic PCR and sequenced four Arsenophonus genes in soybean aphids from their native and introduced range to estimate infection frequency and genetic diversity, and found that Arsenophonus infection is highly prevalent and genetically uniform. To evaluate the defensive role of Arsenophonus, we cured two aphid genotypes of their natural Arsenophonus infection through ampicillin microinjection, resulting in infected and uninfected isolines within the same genetic background. These isolines were subjected to parasitoid assays using a recently introduced biological control agent, Binodoxys communis [Braconidae], a naturally recruited parasitoid, Aphelinus certus [Aphelinidae], and a commercially available biological control agent, Aphidius colemani [Braconidae]. We also assayed the effect of the common aphid fungal pathogen, Pandora neoaphidis (Remaudiere & Hennebert) Humber (Entomophthorales: Entomophthoraceae), on the same aphid isolines. We did not find differences in successful parasitism for any of the parasitoid species, nor did we find differences in P. neoaphidis infection between our treatments. Our conclusion is that Arsenophonus does not defend its soybean aphid host against these major parasitoid and fungal natural enemies.
The alpha-proteobacteria Wolbachia are the most widespread endosymbionts in arthropods and nematodes. Mainly maternally inherited, these so-called sex parasites have selected several strategies that increase their vertical dispersion in host populations. However, the lack of congruence between the Wolbachia and their host phylogenies suggests frequent horizontal transfers. One way that could be used for horizontal Wolbachia transfers between individuals is predation. The aim of this study was to test whether horizontal passage of Wolbachia is possible when an uninfected terrestrial isopod eats an infected one. After having eaten Armadillidium vulgare harbouring Wolbachia, the predator-recipients (the two woodlice A. vulgare and Porcellio dilatatus dilatatus) that were initially Wolbachia-free were tested positive for the presence of Wolbachia both by quantitative PCR and Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (FISH). Even if the titers were low compared to vertically infected individuals, this constitutes the first demonstration of Wolbachia occurrence in various organs of an initially uninfected host after eating an infected one.
The importance of host-specialization to speciation processes in obligate host-associated bacteria is well known, as is also the ability of recombination to generate cohesion in bacterial populations. However, whether divergent strains of highly recombining intracellular bacteria, such as Wolbachia, can maintain their genetic distinctness when infecting the same host is not known. We first developed a protocol for the genome sequencing of uncultivable endosymbionts. Using this method, we have sequenced the complete genomes of the Wolbachia strains wHa and wNo, which occur as natural double infections in Drosophila simulans populations on the Seychelles and in New Caledonia. Taxonomically, wHa belong to supergroup A and wNo to supergroup B. A comparative genomics study including additional strains supported the supergroup classification scheme and revealed 24 and 33 group-specific genes, putatively involved in host-adaptation processes. Recombination frequencies were high for strains of the same supergroup despite different host-preference patterns, leading to genomic cohesion. The inferred recombination fragments for strains of different supergroups were of short sizes, and the genomes of the co-infecting Wolbachia strains wHa and wNo were not more similar to each other and did not share more genes than other A- and B-group strains that infect different hosts. We conclude that Wolbachia strains of supergroup A and B represent genetically distinct clades, and that strains of different supergroups can co-exist in the same arthropod host without converging into the same species. This suggests that the supergroups are irreversibly separated and that barriers other than host-specialization are able to maintain distinct clades in recombining endosymbiont populations. Acquiring a good knowledge of the barriers to genetic exchange in Wolbachia will advance our understanding of how endosymbiont communities are constructed from vertically and horizontally transmitted genes.
Speciation in sexual organisms is defined as the inability of two populations to get viable offspring. Speciation in asexual, obligate endosymbionts is thought to be an indirect consequence of host-specialization. An important question is if divergent endosymbionts would start blending if the host barrier isolating them were removed. Here, we have studied Wolbachia, an abundant group of bacteria in the insect world. Wolbachia is classified into supergroups based on multi-locus sequence typing. We have sequenced the genomes from the Wolbachia strains wNo and wHa. These are particularly interesting since they belong to different supergroups yet co-occur as a double-infection in natural populations of Drosophila simulans. A comparative genomics study showed that wHa and wNo contain no uniquely shared genes. Instead, each strain shares unique gene functions with members of the same supergroup that infect other hosts. This unexpected finding suggests an alternative means of ecological speciation, indicating that speciation is not restricted to host-specialization but rather that related endosymbionts can coexist as separate species in the same host. Our study sheds light on the genomic divergence between different partners inhabiting the intracellular niche of the same host organism.
Honey bee pollination is a key ecosystem service to nature and agriculture. However, biosafety research on genetically modified crops rarely considers effects on nurse bees from intact colonies, even though they receive and primarily process the largest amount of pollen. The objective of this study was to analyze the response of nurse bees and their gut bacteria to pollen from Bt maize expressing three different insecticidal Cry proteins (Cry1A.105, Cry2Ab2, and Cry3Bb1). Naturally Cry proteins are produced by bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis). Colonies of Apis mellifera carnica were kept during anthesis in flight cages on field plots with the Bt maize, two different conventionally bred maize varieties, and without cages, 1-km outside of the experimental maize field to allow ad libitum foraging to mixed pollen sources. During their 10-days life span, the consumption of Bt maize pollen had no effect on their survival rate, body weight and rates of pollen digestion compared to the conventional maize varieties. As indicated by ELISA-quantification of Cry1A.105 and Cry3Bb1, more than 98% of the recombinant proteins were degraded. Bacterial population sizes in the gut were not affected by the genetic modification. Bt-maize, conventional varieties and mixed pollen sources selected for significantly different bacterial communities which were, however, composed of the same dominant members, including Proteobacteria in the midgut and Lactobacillus sp. and Bifidobacterium sp. in the hindgut. Surprisingly, Cry proteins from natural sources, most likely B. thuringiensis, were detected in bees with no exposure to Bt maize. The natural occurrence of Cry proteins and the lack of detectable effects on nurse bees and their gut bacteria give no indication for harmful effects of this Bt maize on nurse honey bees.
Bacteria to eukaryote lateral gene transfers (LGT) are an important potential source of material for the evolution of novel genetic traits. The explosion in the number of newly sequenced genomes provides opportunities to identify and characterize examples of these lateral gene transfer events, and to assess their role in the evolution of new genes. In this paper, we describe an ancient lepidopteran LGT of a glycosyl hydrolase family 31 gene (GH31) from an Enterococcus bacteria. PCR amplification between the LGT and a flanking insect gene confirmed that the GH31 was integrated into the Bombyx mori genome and was not a result of an assembly error. Database searches in combination with degenerate PCR on a panel of 7 lepidopteran families confirmed that the GH31 LGT event occurred deep within the Order approximately 65–145 million years ago. The most basal species in which the LGT was found is Plutella xylostella (superfamily: Yponomeutoidea). Array data from Bombyx mori shows that GH31 is expressed, and low dN/dS ratios indicates the LGT coding sequence is under strong stabilizing selection. These findings provide further support for the proposition that bacterial LGTs are relatively common in insects and likely to be an underappreciated source of adaptive genetic material.
Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) and Lysinibacillus sphaericus (Lsph) are extensively used in mosquito control programs. These biocides are the active ingredients of a commercial larvicide. Quantitative data on the fate of both Bti and Lsph applied together for the control of mosquitoes in urban drainage structures such as catch basins are lacking. We evaluated the dynamics and persistence of Bti and Lsph spores released through their concomitant application in urban catch basins in southern Switzerland. Detection and quantification of spores over time in water and sludge samples from catch basins were carried out using quantitative real-time PCR targeting both cry4A and cry4B toxin genes for Bti and the binA gene for Lsph. After treatment, Bti and Lsph spores attained concentrations of 3.76 (±0.08) and 4.13 (±0.09) log ml−1 in water, then decreased progressively over time, reaching baseline values. For both Bti and Lsph, spore levels in the order of 105 g−1 were observed in the bottom sludge two days after the treatment and remained constant for the whole test period (275 days). Indigenous Lsph strains were isolated from previously untreated catch basins. A selection of those was genotyped using pulsed field gel electrophoresis of SmaI-digested chromosomal DNA, revealing that a subset of isolates were members of the clonal population of strain 2362. No safety issues related to the use of this biopesticide in the environment have been observed during this study, because no significant increase in the number of spores was seen during the long observation period. The isolation of native Lysinibacillus sphaericus strains belonging to the same clonal population as strain 2362 from catch basins never treated with Lsph-based products indicates that the use of a combination of Bti and Lsph for the control of mosquitoes does not introduce non-indigenous microorganisms in this area.
Ankyrin repeat domain-encoding genes are common in the eukaryotic and viral domains of life, but they are rare in bacteria, the exception being a few obligate or facultative intracellular Proteobacteria species. Despite having a reduced genome, the arthropod strains of the alphaproteobacterium Wolbachia contain an unusually high number of ankyrin repeat domain-encoding genes ranging from 23 in wMel to 60 in wPip strain. This group of genes has attracted considerable attention for their astonishing large number as well as for the fact that ankyrin proteins are known to participate in protein-protein interactions, suggesting that they play a critical role in the molecular mechanism that determines host-Wolbachia symbiotic interactions. We present a comparative evolutionary analysis of the wMel-related ankyrin repeat domain-encoding genes present in different Drosophila-Wolbachia associations. Our results show that the ankyrin repeat domain-encoding genes change in size by expansion and contraction mediated by short directly repeated sequences. We provide examples of intra-genic recombination events and show that these genes are likely to be horizontally transferred between strains with the aid of bacteriophages. These results confirm previous findings that the Wolbachia genomes are evolutionary mosaics and illustrate the potential that these bacteria have to generate diversity in proteins potentially involved in the symbiotic interactions.
Wolbachia is a genus of endosymbiotic α-Proteobacteria infecting a wide range of arthropods and filarial nematodes. Wolbachia is able to induce reproductive abnormalities such as cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), thelytokous parthenogenesis, feminization and male killing, thus affecting biology, ecology and evolution of its hosts. The bacterial group has prompted research regarding its potential for the control of agricultural and medical disease vectors, including Glossina spp., which transmits African trypanosomes, the causative agents of sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in animals.
In the present study, we employed a Wolbachia specific 16S rRNA PCR assay to investigate the presence of Wolbachia in six different laboratory stocks as well as in natural populations of nine different Glossina species originating from 10 African countries. Wolbachia was prevalent in Glossina morsitans morsitans, G. morsitans centralis and G. austeni populations. It was also detected in G. brevipalpis, and, for the first time, in G. pallidipes and G. palpalis gambiensis. On the other hand, Wolbachia was not found in G. p. palpalis, G. fuscipes fuscipes and G. tachinoides. Wolbachia infections of different laboratory and natural populations of Glossina species were characterized using 16S rRNA, the wsp (Wolbachia Surface Protein) gene and MLST (Multi Locus Sequence Typing) gene markers. This analysis led to the detection of horizontal gene transfer events, in which Wobachia genes were inserted into the tsetse flies fly nuclear genome.
Wolbachia infections were detected in both laboratory and natural populations of several different Glossina species. The characterization of these Wolbachia strains promises to lead to a deeper insight in tsetse flies-Wolbachia interactions, which is essential for the development and use of Wolbachia-based biological control methods.