Uzma Alam

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States

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Publications (9)35.17 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Tsetse flies (Glossina spp.) are the cyclical vectors of Trypanosoma spp., which are unicellular parasites responsible for multiple diseases, including nagana in livestock and sleeping sickness in humans in Africa. Glossina species, including Glossina morsitans morsitans (Gmm), for which the Whole Genome Sequence (WGS) is now available, have established symbiotic associations with three endosymbionts: Wigglesworthia glossinidia, Sodalis glossinidius and Wolbachia pipientis (Wolbachia). The presence of Wolbachia in both natural and laboratory populations of Glossina species, including the presence of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) events in a laboratory colony of Gmm, has already been shown. We herein report on the draft genome sequence of the cytoplasmic Wolbachia endosymbiont (cytWol) associated with Gmm. By in silico and molecular and cytogenetic analysis, we discovered and validated the presence of multiple insertions of Wolbachia (chrWol) in the host Gmm genome. We identified at least two large insertions of chrWol, 527,507 and 484,123 bp in size, from Gmm WGS data. Southern hybridizations confirmed the presence of Wolbachia insertions in Gmm genome, and FISH revealed multiple insertions located on the two sex chromosomes (X and Y), as well as on the supernumerary B-chromosomes. We compare the chrWol insertions to the cytWol draft genome in an attempt to clarify the evolutionary history of the HGT events. We discuss our findings in light of the evolution of Wolbachia infections in the tsetse fly and their potential impacts on the control of tsetse populations and trypanosomiasis.
    PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 04/2014; 8(4):e2728. · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tsetse flies harbor at least three bacterial symbionts: Wigglesworthia glossinidia, Wolbachia pipientis and Sodalis glossinidius. Wigglesworthia and Sodalis reside in the gut in close association with trypanosomes and may influence establishment and development of midgut parasite infections. Wolbachia has been shown to induce reproductive effects in infected tsetse. This study was conducted to determine the prevalence of these endosymbionts in natural populations of G. austeni and G. pallidipes and to assess the degree of concurrent infections with trypanosomes. Fly samples analyzed originated from Kenyan coastal forests (trapped in 2009--2011) and South African G. austeni collected in 2008. The age structure was estimated by standard methods. G. austeni (n=298) and G. pallidipes (n= 302) were analyzed for infection with Wolbachia and Sodalis using PCR. Trypanosome infection was determined either by microscopic examination of dissected organs or by PCR amplification. Overall we observed that G. pallidipes females had a longer lifespan (70 d) than G. austeni (54 d) in natural populations. Wolbachia infections were present in all G. austeni flies analysed, while in contrast, this symbiont was absent from G. pallidipes. The density of Wolbachia infections in the Kenyan G. austeni population was higher than that observed in South African flies. The infection prevalence of Sodalis ranged from 3.7% in G. austeni to about 16% in G. pallidipes. Microscopic examination of midguts revealed an overall trypanosome infection prevalence of 6% (n = 235) and 5% (n = 552), while evaluation with ITS1 primers indicated a prevalence of about 13% (n = 296) and 10% (n = 302) in G. austeni and G. pallidipes, respectively. The majority of infections (46%) were with T. congolense. Co-infection with all three organisms was observed at 1% and 3.3% in G. austeni and G. pallidipes, respectively. Eleven out of the thirteen (85%) co-infected flies harboured T. congolense and T. simiae parasites. While the association between trypanosomes and Sodalis infection was statistically significant in G. pallidipes (P = 0.0127), the number of co-infected flies was too few for a definite conclusion. The tsetse populations analyzed differed in the prevalence of symbionts, despite being sympatric and therefore exposed to identical environmental factors. The density of infections with Wolbachia also differed between G. austeni populations. There were too few natural co-infections detected with the Sodalis and trypanosomes to suggest extensive inter-relations between these infections in natural populations. We discuss these findings in the context of potential symbiont-mediated control interventions to reduce parasite infections and/or fly populations.
    Parasites & Vectors 08/2013; 6(1):232. · 3.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Wolbachia pipientis, a diverse group of alpha-proteobacteria, can alter arthropod host reproduction and confer a reproductive advantage to Wolbachia-infected females (cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI)). This advantage can alter host population genetics because Wolbachia-infected females produce more offspring with their own mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes than uninfected females. Thus, these host haplotypes become common or fixed (selective sweep). Although simulations suggest that for a CI-mediated sweep to occur, there must be a transient phase with repeated initial infections of multiple individual hosts by different Wolbachia strains, this has not been observed empirically. Wolbachia has been found in the tsetse fly, Glossina fuscipes fuscipes, but it is not limited to a single host haplotype, suggesting that CI did not impact its population structure. However, host population genetic differentiation could have been generated if multiple Wolbachia strains interacted in some populations. Here, we investigated Wolbachia genetic variation in G. f. fuscipes populations of known host genetic composition in Uganda. We tested for the presence of multiple Wolbachia strains using Multi-Locus Sequence Typing (MLST) and for an association between geographic region and host mtDNA haplotype using Wolbachia DNA sequence from a variable locus, groEL (heat shock protein 60). RESULTS: MLST demonstrated that some G. f. fuscipes carry Wolbachia strains from two lineages. GroEL revealed high levels of sequence diversity within and between individuals (Haplotype diversity = 0.945). We found Wolbachia associated with 26 host mtDNA haplotypes, an unprecedented result. We observed a geographical association of one Wolbachia lineage with southern host mtDNA haplotypes, but it was non-significant (p = 0.16). Though most Wolbachia-infected host haplotypes were those found in the contact region between host mtDNA groups, this association was non-significant (p = 0.17). CONCLUSIONS: High Wolbachia sequence diversity and the association of Wolbachia with multiple host haplotypes suggest that different Wolbachia strains infected G. f. fuscipes multiple times independently. We suggest that these observations reflect a transient phase in Wolbachia evolution that is influenced by the long gestation and low reproductive output of tsetse. Although G. f. fuscipes is superinfected with Wolbachia, our data does not support that bidirectional CI has influenced host genetic diversity in Uganda.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 02/2013; 13(1):31. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 07/2012; · 2.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tsetse flies (Diptera: Glossinidae) are vectors for African trypanosomes (Euglenozoa: kinetoplastida), protozoan parasites that cause African trypanosomiasis in humans (HAT) and nagana in livestock. In addition to trypanosomes, two symbiotic bacteria (Wigglesworthia glossinidia and Sodalis glossinidius) and two parasitic microbes, Wolbachia and a salivary gland hypertrophy virus (SGHV), have been described in tsetse. Here we determined the prevalence of and coinfection dynamics between Wolbachia, trypanosomes, and SGHV in Glossina fuscipes fuscipes in Uganda over a large geographical scale spanning the range of host genetic and spatial diversity. Using a multivariate analysis approach, we uncovered complex coinfection dynamics between the pathogens and statistically significant associations between host genetic groups and pathogen prevalence. It is important to note that these coinfection dynamics and associations with the host were not apparent by univariate analysis. These associations between host genotype and pathogen are particularly evident for Wolbachia and SGHV where host groups are inversely correlated for Wolbachia and SGHV prevalence. On the other hand, trypanosome infection prevalence is more complex and covaries with the presence of the other two pathogens, highlighting the importance of examining multiple pathogens simultaneously before making generalizations about infection and spatial patterns. It is imperative to note that these novel findings would have been missed if we had employed the standard univariate analysis used in previous studies. Our results are discussed in the context of disease epidemiology and vector control.
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology 04/2012; 78(13):4627-37. · 3.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: 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. RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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.
    BMC Microbiology 01/2012; 12 Suppl 1:S3. · 2.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tsetse flies are vectors of the protozoan parasite African trypanosomes, which cause sleeping sickness disease in humans and nagana in livestock. Although there are no effective vaccines and efficacious drugs against this parasite, vector reduction methods have been successful in curbing the disease, especially for nagana. Potential vector control methods that do not involve use of chemicals is a genetic modification approach where flies engineered to be parasite resistant are allowed to replace their susceptible natural counterparts, and Sterile Insect technique (SIT) where males sterilized by chemical means are released to suppress female fecundity. The success of genetic modification approaches requires identification of strong drive systems to spread the desirable traits and the efficacy of SIT can be enhanced by identification of natural mating incompatibility. One such drive mechanism results from the cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) phenomenon induced by the symbiont Wolbachia. CI can also be used to induce natural mating incompatibility between release males and natural populations. Although Wolbachia infections have been reported in tsetse, it has been a challenge to understand their functional biology as attempts to cure tsetse of Wolbachia infections by antibiotic treatment damages the obligate mutualistic symbiont (Wigglesworthia), without which the flies are sterile. Here, we developed aposymbiotic (symbiont-free) and fertile tsetse lines by dietary provisioning of tetracycline supplemented blood meals with yeast extract, which rescues Wigglesworthia-induced sterility. Our results reveal that Wolbachia infections confer strong CI during embryogenesis in Wolbachia-free (Gmm(Apo)) females when mated with Wolbachia-infected (Gmm(Wt)) males. These results are the first demonstration of the biological significance of Wolbachia infections in tsetse. Furthermore, when incorporated into a mathematical model, our results confirm that Wolbachia can be used successfully as a gene driver. This lays the foundation for new disease control methods including a population replacement approach with parasite resistant flies. Alternatively, the availability of males that are reproductively incompatible with natural populations can enhance the efficacy of the ongoing sterile insect technique (SIT) applications by eliminating the need for chemical irradiation.
    PLoS Pathogens 12/2011; 7(12):e1002415. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vertical transmission of obligate symbionts generates a predictable evolutionary history of symbionts that reflects that of their hosts. In insects, evolutionary associations between symbionts and their hosts have been investigated primarily among species, leaving population-level processes largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the tsetse (Diptera: Glossinidae) bacterial symbiont, Wigglesworthia glossinidia, to determine whether observed codiversification of symbiont and tsetse host species extends to a single host species (Glossina fuscipes fuscipes) in Uganda. To explore symbiont genetic variation in G. f. fuscipes populations, we screened two variable loci (lon and lepA) from the Wigglesworthia glossinidia bacterium in the host species Glossina fuscipes fuscipes (W. g. fuscipes) and examined phylogeographic and demographic characteristics in multiple host populations. Symbiont genetic variation was apparent within and among populations. We identified two distinct symbiont lineages, in northern and southern Uganda. Incongruence length difference (ILD) tests indicated that the two lineages corresponded exactly to northern and southern G. f. fuscipes mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups (P = 1.0). Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) confirmed that most variation was partitioned between the northern and southern lineages defined by host mtDNA (85.44%). However, ILD tests rejected finer-scale congruence within the northern and southern populations (P = 0.009). This incongruence was potentially due to incomplete lineage sorting that resulted in novel combinations of symbiont genetic variants and host background. Identifying these novel combinations may have public health significance, since tsetse is the sole vector of sleeping sickness and Wigglesworthia is known to influence host vector competence. Thus, understanding the adaptive value of these host-symbiont combinations may afford opportunities to develop vector control methods.
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology 09/2011; 77(23):8400-8. · 3.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A key process in the tsetse reproductive cycle is the transfer of essential nutrients and bacterial symbionts from mother to intrauterine offspring. The tissue mediating this transfer is the milk gland. This work focuses upon the localization and function of two milk proteins (milk gland protein (GmmMGP) and transferrin (GmmTsf)) and the tsetse endosymbionts (Sodalis and Wigglesworthia), in the context of milk gland physiology. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and immunohistochemical analysis confirm that the milk gland secretory cells synthesize and secrete milk gland protein and transferrin. Knockdown of gmmmgp by double stranded RNA (dsRNA) mediated RNA interference results in reduction of tsetse fecundity, demonstrating its functional importance in larval nutrition and development. Bacterial species-specific in situ hybridizations of milk gland sections reveal large numbers of Sodalis and Wigglesworthia within the lumen of the milk gland. Sodalis is also localized within the cytoplasm of the secretory cells. Within the lumen, Wigglesworthia localize close to the channels leading to the milk storage reservoir of the milk gland secretory cells. We discuss the significance of the milk gland in larval nutrition and in transmission of symbiotic bacteria to developing offspring.
    Journal of Insect Physiology 08/2008; 54(8):1236-42. · 2.38 Impact Factor