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2.  Specific Detection and Localization of Microsporidian Parasites in Invertebrate Hosts by Using In Situ Hybridization 
We designed fluorescence in situ hybridization probes for two distinct microsporidian clades and demonstrated their application in detecting, respectively, Nosema/Vairimorpha and Dictyoceola species. We used them to study the vertical transmission of two microsporidia infecting the amphipod Gammarus duebeni.
PMCID: PMC3536083  PMID: 23087031
3.  The Diversity and Evolution of Wolbachia Ankyrin Repeat Domain Genes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55390.
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.
PMCID: PMC3563639  PMID: 23390535
4.  Mites Parasitic on Australasian and African Spiders Found in the Pet Trade; a Redescription of Ljunghia pulleinei Womersley 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39019.
Parasitic mites associated with spiders are spreading world-wide through the trade in tarantulas and other pet species. Ljunghia pulleinei Womersley, a mesostigmatic laelapid mite originally found in association with the mygalomorph spider Selenocosmia stirlingi Hogg (Theraphosidae) in Australia, is redescribed and illustrated on the basis of specimens from the African theraphosid spider Pterinochilus chordatus (Gerstäcker) kept in captivity in the British Isles (Wales). The mite is known from older original descriptions of Womersley in 1956; the subsequent redescription of Domrow in 1975 seems to be questionable in conspecificity of treated specimens with the type material. Some inconsistencies in both descriptions are recognised here as intraspecific variability of the studied specimens. The genus Arachnyssus Ma, with species A. guangxiensis (type) and A. huwenae, is not considered to be a valid genus, and is included in synonymy with Ljunghia Oudemans. A new key to world species of the genus Ljunghia is provided.
PMCID: PMC3374770  PMID: 22720019
5.  Naturally Occurring Culturable Aerobic Gut Flora of Adult Phlebotomus papatasi, Vector of Leishmania major in the Old World 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35748.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis is a neglected, vector-borne parasitic disease and is responsible for persistent, often disfiguring lesions and other associated complications. Leishmania, causing zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniasis (ZCL) in the Old World are mainly transmitted by the predominant sand fly vector, Phlebotomus papatasi. To date, there is no efficient control measure or vaccine available for this widespread insect-borne infectious disease.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A survey was carried out to study the abundance of different natural gut flora in P. papatasi, with the long-term goal of generating a paratransgenic sand fly that can potentially block the development of Leishmania in the sand fly gut, thereby preventing transmission of leishmania in endemic disease foci. Sand flies, in particular, P. papatasi were captured from different habitats of various parts of the world. Gut microbes were cultured and identified using 16S ribosomal DNA analysis and a phylogenetic tree was constructed. We found variation in the species and abundance of gut flora in flies collected from different habitats. However, a few Gram-positive, nonpathogenic bacteria including Bacillus flexus and B. pumilus were common in most of the sites examined.
Our results indicate that there is a wide range of variation of aerobic gut flora inhabiting sand fly guts, which possibly reflect the ecological condition of the habitat where the fly breeds. Also, some species of bacteria (B. pumilus, and B. flexus) were found from most of the habitats. Important from an applied perspective of dissemination, our results support a link between oviposition induction and adult gut flora.
PMCID: PMC3358311  PMID: 22629302
6.  Wolbachia Prophage DNA Adenine Methyltransferase Genes in Different Drosophila-Wolbachia Associations 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19708.
Wolbachia is an obligatory intracellular bacterium which often manipulates the reproduction of its insect and isopod hosts. In contrast, Wolbachia is an essential symbiont in filarial nematodes. Lately, Wolbachia has been implicated in genomic imprinting of host DNA through cytosine methylation. The importance of DNA methylation in cell fate and biology calls for in depth studing of putative methylation-related genes. We present a molecular and phylogenetic analysis of a putative DNA adenine methyltransferase encoded by a prophage in the Wolbachia genome. Two slightly different copies of the gene, met1 and met2, exhibit a different distribution over various Wolbachia strains. The met2 gene is present in the majority of strains, in wAu, however, it contains a frameshift caused by a 2 bp deletion. Phylogenetic analysis of the met2 DNA sequences suggests a long association of the gene with the Wolbachia host strains. In addition, our analysis provides evidence for previously unnoticed multiple infections, the detection of which is critical for the molecular elucidation of modification and/or rescue mechanism of cytoplasmic incompatibility.
PMCID: PMC3089641  PMID: 21573076
7.  Mutational Meltdown in Primary Endosymbionts: Selection Limits Muller's Ratchet 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4969.
Primary bacterial endosymbionts of insects (p-endosymbionts) are thought to be undergoing the process of Muller's ratchet where they accrue slightly deleterious mutations due to genetic drift in small populations with negligible recombination rates. If this process were to go unchecked over time, theory predicts mutational meltdown and eventual extinction. Although genome degradation is common among p-endosymbionts, we do not observe widespread p-endosymbiont extinction, suggesting that Muller's ratchet may be slowed or even stopped over time. For example, selection may act to slow the effects of Muller's ratchet by removing slightly deleterious mutations before they go to fixation thereby causing a decrease in nucleotide substitutions rates in older p-endosymbiont lineages.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To determine whether selection is slowing the effects of Muller's ratchet, we determined the age of the Candidatus Riesia/sucking louse assemblage and analyzed the nucleotide substitution rates of several p-endosymbiont lineages that differ in the length of time that they have been associated with their insect hosts. We find that Riesia is the youngest p-endosymbiont known to date, and has been associated with its louse hosts for only 13–25 My. Further, it is the fastest evolving p-endosymbiont with substitution rates of 19–34% per 50 My. When comparing Riesia to other insect p-endosymbionts, we find that nucleotide substitution rates decrease dramatically as the age of endosymbiosis increases.
A decrease in nucleotide substitution rates over time suggests that selection may be limiting the effects of Muller's ratchet by removing individuals with the highest mutational loads and decreasing the rate at which new mutations become fixed. This countering effect of selection could slow the overall rate of endosymbiont extinction.
PMCID: PMC2654755  PMID: 19305500
8.  The Endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis Induces the Expression of Host Antioxidant Proteins in an Aedes albopictus Cell Line 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(5):e2083.
Wolbachia are obligate intracellular bacteria which commonly infect arthropods. They are maternally inherited and capable of altering host development, sex determination, and reproduction. Reproductive manipulations include feminization, male-killing, parthenogenesis, and cytoplasmic incompatibility. The mechanism by which Wolbachia avoid destruction by the host immune response is unknown. Generation of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) by the host are among the first lines of traditional antimicrobial defense. Previous work shows no link between a Wolbachia infection and the induction of AMPs. Here we compare the expression of protein in a cell line naturally infected with Wolbachia and an identical cell line cured of the infection through the use of antibiotics. Protein extracts of each cell line were analyzed by two dimensional gel electrophoresis and LC/MS/MS. Our results show the upregulation of host antioxidant proteins, which are active against ROS generated by aerobic cell metabolism and during an immune response. Furthermore, flow cytometric and microscopic analysis demonstrates that ROS production is significantly greater in Wolbachia-infected mosquito cells and is associated with endosymbiont-containing vacuoles located in the host cell cytoplasm. This is the first empirical data supporting an association between Wolbachia and the insect antioxidant system.
PMCID: PMC2324199  PMID: 18461124
9.  Evolutionary Relationships of “Candidatus Riesia spp.,” Endosymbiotic Enterobacteriaceae Living within Hematophagous Primate Lice▿  
The primary endosymbiotic bacteria from three species of parasitic primate lice were characterized molecularly. We have confirmed the characterization of the primary endosymbiont (P-endosymbiont) of the human head/body louse Pediculus humanus and provide new characterizations of the P-endosymbionts from Pediculus schaeffi from chimpanzees and Pthirus pubis, the pubic louse of humans. The endosymbionts show an average percent sequence divergence of 11 to 15% from the most closely related known bacterium “Candidatus Arsenophonus insecticola.” We propose that two additional species be added to the genus “Candidatus Riesia.” The new species proposed within “Candidatus Riesia” have sequence divergences of 3.4% and 10 to 12% based on uncorrected pairwise differences. Our Bayesian analysis shows that the branching pattern for the primary endosymbionts was the same as that for their louse hosts, suggesting a long coevolutionary history between primate lice and their primary endosymbionts. We used a calibration of 5.6 million years to date the divergence between endosymbionts from human and chimpanzee lice and estimated an evolutionary rate of nucleotide substitution of 0.67% per million years, which is 15 to 30 times faster than previous estimates calculated for Buchnera, the primary endosymbiont in aphids. Given the evidence for cospeciation with primate lice and the evidence for fast evolutionary rates, this lineage of endosymbiotic bacteria can be evaluated as a fast-evolving marker of both louse and primate evolutionary histories.
PMCID: PMC1828778  PMID: 17220259
10.  The sex ratio distortion in the human head louse is conserved over time 
BMC Genetics  2004;5:10.
At the turn of the 19th century the first observations of a female-biased sex ratio in broods and populations of the head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis, had been reported. A study by Buxton in 1940 on the sex ratio of lice on prisoners in Ceylon is still today the subject of reanalyses. This sex ratio distortion had been detected in ten different countries. In the last sixty years no new data have been collected, especially on scalp infestations under economically and socially more developed conditions.
Here we report a female bias of head lice in a survey of 480 school children in Argentina. This bias is independent of the intensity of the pediculosis, which makes local mate competition highly unlikely as the source of the aberrant sex ratio; however, other possible adaptive mechanisms cannot be discounted. These lice as well as lice from pupils in Britain were carrying several strains of the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, one of the most wide spread intracellular sex ratio distorters. Similar Wolbachia strains are also present in the pig louse, Haematopinus suis, suggesting that this endosymbiont might have a marked influence on the biology of the whole order. The presence of a related obligate nutritional bacterium in lice prevents the investigation of a causal link between sex ratio and endosymbionts.
Regardless of its origin, this sex ratio distortion in head lice that has been reported world wide, is stable over time and is a remarkable deviation from the stability of frequency-dependent selection of Fisher's sex ratio. A female bias first reported in 1898 is still present over a hundred years and a thousand generations later.
PMCID: PMC428572  PMID: 15140268
11.  Cloning and Characterization of a Gene Encoding the Major Surface Protein of the Bacterial Endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(9):2373-2378.
The maternally inherited intracellular symbiont Wolbachia pipientis is well known for inducing a variety of reproductive abnormalities in the diverse arthropod hosts it infects. It has been implicated in causing cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis, and the feminization of genetic males in different hosts. The molecular mechanisms by which this fastidious intracellular bacterium causes these reproductive and developmental abnormalities have not yet been determined. In this paper, we report on (i) the purification of one of the most abundantly expressed Wolbachia proteins from infected Drosophila eggs and (ii) the subsequent cloning and characterization of the gene (wsp) that encodes it. The functionality of the wsp promoter region was also successfully tested in Escherichia coli. Comparison of sequences of this gene from different strains of Wolbachia revealed a high level of variability. This sequence variation correlated with the ability of certain Wolbachia strains to induce or rescue the cytoplasmic incompatibility phenotype in infected insects. As such, this gene will be a very useful tool for Wolbachia strain typing and phylogenetic analysis, as well as understanding the molecular basis of the interaction of Wolbachia with its host.
PMCID: PMC107178  PMID: 9573188

Results 1-11 (11)