Diversifying selection and host adaptation in two endosymbiont genomes

School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. <>
BMC Evolutionary Biology (Impact Factor: 3.41). 02/2007; 7:68. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-7-68
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis infects a broad range of arthropod and filarial nematode hosts. These diverse associations form an attractive model for understanding host:symbiont coevolution. Wolbachia's ubiquity and ability to dramatically alter host reproductive biology also form the foundation of research strategies aimed at controlling insect pests and vector-borne disease. The Wolbachia strains that infect nematodes are phylogenetically distinct, strictly vertically transmitted, and required by their hosts for growth and reproduction. Insects in contrast form more fluid associations with Wolbachia. In these taxa, host populations are most often polymorphic for infection, horizontal transmission occurs between distantly related hosts, and direct fitness effects on hosts are mild. Despite extensive interest in the Wolbachia system for many years, relatively little is known about the molecular mechanisms that mediate its varied interactions with different hosts. We have compared the genomes of the Wolbachia that infect Drosophila melanogaster, wMel and the nematode Brugia malayi, wBm to that of an outgroup Anaplasma marginale to identify genes that have experienced diversifying selection in the Wolbachia lineages. The goal of the study was to identify likely molecular mechanisms of the symbiosis and to understand the nature of the diverse association across different hosts.
The prevalence of selection was far greater in wMel than wBm. Genes contributing to DNA metabolism, cofactor biosynthesis, and secretion were positively selected in both lineages. In wMel there was a greater emphasis on DNA repair, cell division, protein stability, and cell envelope synthesis.
Secretion pathways and outer surface protein encoding genes are highly affected by selection in keeping with host:parasite theory. If evidence of selection on various cofactor molecules reflects possible provisioning, then both insect as well as nematode Wolbachia may be providing substances to hosts. Selection on cell envelope synthesis, DNA replication and repair machinery, heat shock, and two component switching suggest strategies insect Wolbachia may employ to cope with diverse host and intra-host environments.

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    ABSTRACT: Dirofilaria immitis, or canine heartworm, is a filarial nematode parasite that infects dogs and other mammals worldwide. Current disease control relies on regular administration of anthelmintic preventives, however, relatively poor compliance and evidence of developing drug resistance could warrant alternative measures against D. immitis and related human filarial infections be taken. As with many other filarial nematodes, D. immitis contains Wolbachia, an obligate bacterial endosymbiont thought to be involved in providing certain critical metabolites to the nematode. Correlations between nematode and Wolbachia transcriptomes during development have not been examined. Therefore, we detailed the developmental transcriptome of both D. immitis and its Wolbachia (wDi) in order to gain a better understanding of parasite-endosymbiont interactions throughout the nematode life cycle. Over 215 million single-end 50 bp reads were generated from total RNA from D. immitis adult males and females, microfilariae (mf) and third and fourth-stage larvae (L3 and L4). We critically evaluated the transcriptomes of the various life cycle stages to reveal sex-biased transcriptional patterns, as well as transcriptional differences between larval stages that may be involved in larval maturation. Hierarchical clustering revealed both D. immitis and wDi transcriptional activity in the L3 stage is clearly distinct from other life cycle stages. Interestingly, a large proportion of both D. immitis and wDi genes display microfilarial-biased transcriptional patterns. Concurrent transcriptome sequencing identified potential molecular interactions between parasite and endosymbiont that are more prominent during certain life cycle stages. In support of metabolite provisioning between filarial nematodes and Wolbachia, the synthesis of the critical metabolite, heme, by wDi appears to be synchronized in a stage-specific manner (mf-specific) with the production of heme-binding proteins in D. immitis. Our integrated transcriptomic study has highlighted interesting correlations between Wolbachia and D. immitis transcription throughout the life cycle and provided a resource that may be used for the development of novel intervention strategies, not only for the treatment and prevention of D. immitis infections, but of other closely related human parasites as well.
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    ABSTRACT: Microbial tropism, the infection of specific cells and tissues by a microorganism, is a fundamental aspect of host-microbe interactions. The intracellular bacteria Wolbachia have a peculiar tropism for the stem cell niches in the Drosophila ovary, the microenvironments that support the cells producing the eggs. The molecular underpinnings of Wolbachia stem cell niche tropism are unknown. We have previously shown that the patterns of tropism in the ovary show a high degree of conservation across the Wolbachia lineage, with closely related Wolbachia strains usually displaying the same pattern of stem cell niche tropism. It has also been shown that tropism to these structures in the ovary facilitates both vertical and horizontal transmission, providing a strong selective pressure towards evolutionary conservation of tropism. Here we show great disparity in the evolutionary conservation and underlying mechanisms of stem cell niche tropism between male and female gonads. In contrast to females, niche tropism in the male testis is not pervasive, present in only 45% of niches analyzed. The patterns of niche tropism in the testis are not evolutionarily maintained across the Wolbachia lineage, unlike what was shown in the females. Furthermore, hub tropism does not correlate with cytoplasmic incompatibility, a Wolbachia-driven phenotype imprinted during spermatogenesis. Towards identifying the molecular mechanism of hub tropism, we performed hybrid analyses of Wolbachia strains in non-native hosts. These results indicate that both Wolbachia and host derived factors play a role in the targeting of the stem cell niche in the testis. Surprisingly, even closely related Wolbachia strains in Drosophila melanogaster, derived from a single ancestor only 8,000 years ago, have significantly different tropisms to the hub, highlighting that stem cell niche tropism is rapidly diverging in males. These findings provide a powerful system to investigate the mechanisms and evolution of microbial tissue tropism.
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