Institute of Parasitology Biology Centre, ASCR
Recent publications
Sucking lice (Anoplura) are known to have established symbiotic associations multiple times with different groups of bacteria as diverse as Enterobacteriales, Legionellales, and Neisseriales. This diversity, together with absence of a common coevolving symbiont (such as Buchnera , in aphids), indicates that sucking lice underwent a series of symbiont acquisitions, losses, and replacements. To better understand evolution and significance of louse symbionts, genomic and phylogenetic data are needed from a broader taxonomic diversity of lice and their symbiotic bacteria. In this study, we extend the known spectrum of the louse symbionts with a new lineage associated with Neohaematopinus pacificus , a louse species that commonly parasitizes North American chipmunks. The recent coevolutionary analysis showed that rather than a single species, these lice form a cluster of unique phylogenetic lineages specific to separate chipmunk species (or group of closely related species). Using metagenomic assemblies, we show that the lice harbor a bacterium which mirrors their phylogeny and displays traits typical for obligate mutualists. Phylogenetic analyses place this bacterium within Enterobacteriaceae on a long branch related to another louse symbiont, “ Candidatus Puchtella pedicinophila.” We propose for this symbiotic lineage the name “ Candidatus Lightella neohaematopini.” Based on the reconstruction of metabolic pathways, we suggest that like other louse symbionts, L. neohaematopini provides its host with at least some B vitamins. In addition, several samples harbored another symbiotic bacterium phylogenetically affiliated with the Neisseriales-related symbionts described previously from the lice Polyplax serrata and Hoplopleura acanthopus . Characterizing these bacteria further extend the known diversity of the symbiotic associations in lice and show unique complexity and dynamics of the system.
Malaria represents an enormous burden for a significant proportion of humanity and the lack of vaccines and problems with drug resistance to all antimalarials demonstrate the need to develop new therapeutics. Inhibitors of phosphoinositide metabolism are currently being developed as antimalarials but our understanding of this biological pathway is incomplete.
Parasite species lacking a free‐living stage rely on their hosts for dispersal. Their population genetic structure depends on the host's vagility and dispersal rate. To gain more insight into the drivers responsible for shaping the spatio‐temporal population structure in host–parasite systems, we used mitochondrial DNA sequences to compare patterns of genetic diversity in two closely related and contact‐transmitted parasitic wing mites Spinturnix psi and S. myoti with their bat hosts Miniopterus pallidus and Myotis blythii, respectively, across vast distances in Iran. We observed almost no genetic differentiation between mites living on bats in different colonies even from distant locations, whereas we found some level of genetic differentiation and isolation by distance in each host species, particularly in the less vagrant M. blythii. Despite Iran's high spatial divergence and long distance between the sampled locations, local genetic diversity and inter‐population gene flow in the parasites were high, even between different sides of the Zagros and Alborz Mountains. The genetic similarity that was observed among mite populations likely reflects genetic exchanges between colonies at swarming places of bats, as well as the possible occupation of other host species, resulting in a higher effective population size and more dispersal opportunities for the mites.
Objectives: Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are susceptible to intestinal opportunistic infections due to both defective mucosal immunity and altered immune response resulting from immunosuppressive treatment. Microsporidia infecting the gastrointestinal tract and causing diarrhoea can potentially affect the course of IBD. Methods: Stool samples (90 IBD children and 121 healthy age-matched controls) were screened for Encephalitozoon spp. and Enterocytozoon bieneusi by microscopy and polymerase chain reaction followed by sequencing. Results: E. bieneusi genotype D was found in seven out of 90 (7.8%) IBD children. No children from the control group were infected, making the pathogen prevalence in the IBD group significant ( P = 0.002). Furthermore, infection was confirmed only in patients receiving immunosuppressive treatment ( P = 0.013). Conclusions: Children with IBD are at risk of intestinal E. bieneusi infection, especially when receiving immunosuppressive treatment. Therefore, microsporidia should be considered as a significant infectious agent in this group of patients.
Extracellular vesicles are thought to facilitate pathogen transmission from arthropods to humans and other animals. Here, we reveal that pathogen spreading from arthropods to the mammalian host is multifaceted. Extracellular vesicles from Ixodes scapularis enable tick feeding and promote infection of the mildly virulent rickettsial agent Anaplasma phagocytophilum through the SNARE proteins Vamp33 and Synaptobrevin 2 and dendritic epidermal T cells. However, extracellular vesicles from the tick Dermacentor andersoni mitigate microbial spreading caused by the lethal pathogen Francisella tularensis. Collectively, we establish that tick extracellular vesicles foster distinct outcomes of bacterial infection and assist in vector feeding by acting on skin immunity. Thus, the biology of arthropods should be taken into consideration when developing strategies to control vector-borne diseases. Extracellular vesicles have been implicated in the transmission of pathogens from the arthropod to the human host. Here the authors show that tick-derived extracellular vesicles play a role in feeding and modulate the outcome of bacterial infection.
Myxozoans are widely distributed aquatic obligate endoparasites that were recently recognized as belonging within the phylum Cnidaria. They have complex life cycles with waterborne transmission stages: resistant, infectious spores that are unique to myxozoans. However, little is known about the processes that give rise to these transmission stages. To understand the molecular underpinnings of spore formation, we conducted proteomics on Ceratonova shasta , a highly pathogenic myxozoan that causes severe mortalities in wild and hatchery-reared salmonid fishes. We compared proteomic profiles between developmental stages from inside the fish host, and the mature myxospore, which is released into the water where it drifts passively, ready to infect the next host. We found that C. shasta contains 2,123 proteins; representing the first proteomic catalog of a myxozoan myxospore. Analysis of proteins differentially expressed between developing and mature spore stages uncovered processes that are active during spore formation. Our data highlight dynamic changes in the actin cytoskeleton, which provides myxozoan developmental stages with mobility through lamellipodia and filopodia, whereas in the mature myxospore the actin network supports F-actin stabilization that reinforces the transmission stage. These findings provide molecular insight into the myxozoan life cycle stages and, particularly, into the process of sporogenesis.
Spiroplasma are vertically-transmitted endosymbionts of ticks and other arthropods. Field-collected Ixodes persulcatus have been reported to harbour Spiroplasma, but nothing is known about their persistence during laboratory colonisation of this tick species. We successfully isolated Spiroplasma from internal organs of 6/10 unfed adult ticks, belonging to the third generation of an I. persulcatus laboratory colony, into tick cell culture. We screened a further 51 adult male and female ticks from the same colony for presence of Spiroplasma by genus-specific PCR amplification of fragments of the 16S rRNA and rpoB genes; 100% of these ticks were infected and the 16S rRNA sequence showed 99.8% similarity to that of a previously-published Spiroplasma isolated from field-collected I. persulcatus. Our study shows that Spiroplasma endosymbionts persist at high prevalence in colonized I. persulcatus through at least three generations, and confirms the usefulness of tick cell lines for isolation and cultivation of this bacterium.
Ceratothoa oestroides (Cymothoidea, Isopoda) is a generalist crustacean parasite that negatively affects the economic sustainability of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) aquaculture in the NorthEast Mediterranean. While mortalities are observed in fry and fingerlings, infection in juvenile and adult fish result in approximately 20% growth delay. A transcriptomic analysis (PCR array, RNA-Seq) was performed on organs (tongue, spleen, head kidney, and liver) from infected vs. Ceratothoa-free sea bass fingerlings. Activation of local and systemic immune responses was detected, particularly in the spleen, characterized by the upregulation of cytokines (also in the tongue), a general reshaping of the immunoglobulin (Ig) response and suppression of T-cell mediated responses. Interestingly, starvation and iron transport and metabolism genes were strongly downregulated, suggesting that the parasite feeding strategy is not likely hematophagous. The regulation of genes related to growth impairment and starvation supported the growth delay observed in infected animals. Most differentially expressed (DE) transcripts were exclusive of a specific organ; however, only in the tongue, the difference between infected and uninfected fish was significant. At the attachment/feeding site, the pathways involved in muscle contraction and intercellular junction were the most upregulated, whereas the pathways involved in fibrosis (extracellular matrix organization, collagen formation, and biosynthesis) were downregulated. These results suggest that parasite-inflicted damage is successfully mitigated by the host and characterized by regenerative processes that prevail over the reparative ones.
The border region between Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany harbors the most south‐western occurrence of moose in continental Europe. The population originated in Poland, where moose survived, immigrated from former Soviet Union or were reintroduced after the Second World War expanded west‐ and southwards. In recent years, the distribution of the nonetheless small Central European population seems to have declined, necessitating an evaluation of its current status. In this study, existing datasets of moose observations from 1958 to 2019 collected in the three countries were combined to create a database totaling 771 records (observations and deaths). The database was then used to analyze the following: (a) changes in moose distribution, (b) the most important mortality factors, and (c) the availability of suitable habitat as determined using a maximum entropy approach. The results showed a progressive increase in the number of moose observations after 1958, with peaks in the 1990s and around 2010, followed by a relatively steep drop after 2013. Mortality within the moose population was mostly due to human interactions, including 13 deadly wildlife‐vehicle collisions, particularly on minor roads, and four animals that were either legally culled or poached. Our habitat model suggested that higher altitudes (ca. 700–1,000 m a.s.l.), especially those offering wetlands, broad‐leaved forests and natural grasslands, are the preferred habitats of moose whereas steep slopes and areas of human activity are avoided. The habitat model also revealed the availability of large core areas of suitable habitat beyond the current distribution, suggesting that habitat was not the limiting factor explaining the moose distribution in the study area. Our findings call for immediate transboundary conservation measures to sustain the moose population, such as those aimed at preventing wildlife‐vehicle collisions and illegal killings. Infrastructure planning and development activities must take into account the habitat requirements of moose. Moose at the southernmost edge of its distribution in Europe deserve attention and conservation. We combined data from three countries to analyze history and current distribution, opportunities and threats for this population.
The phylogenetic diversity of symbiotic bacteria in sucking lice suggests that lice have a complex history of symbiont acquisition, loss, and replacement throughout their evolution. These processes have resulted in the establishment of different, phylogenetically distant bacteria as obligate mutualists in different louse groups. By combining metagenomics and amplicon screening across several populations of three louse species (members of the genera Polyplax and Hoplopleura) we describe a novel louse symbiont lineage related to Neisseria and Snodgrassella, and show its independent origin in the two louse genera. While the genomes of these symbionts are highly similar, their respective distributions and status within lice microbiomes indicate that they have different functions and history. In Hoplopleura acanthopus, the Neisseriaceae-related bacterium is a dominant obligate symbiont present across several host populations. In contrast, the Polyplax microbiomes are dominated by the obligate symbiont Legionella polyplacis, with the Neisseriaceae-related bacterium co-occurring only in some samples and with much lower abundance. The results thus support the view that compared to other exclusively blood feeding insects, Anoplura possess a unique capacity to acquire symbionts from diverse groups of bacteria.
Spreadable processed cheese (SPC) samples, with 30 and 40% (w/w) dry matter (DM) and 30, 40 and 50% (w/w) fat in dry matter (FDM), were produced with nine individual melt holding times (between 0 and 10 min) and stored for 30 days. Milk fat droplet size and viscoelastic properties were determined. In general, longer holding times resulted in decreased diameter of the milk fat droplets in all tested SPC samples. Furthermore, the size of the milk fat droplets decreased with increasing DM content and decreasing FDM content. Furthermore, for most of the produced SPCs, with the progress of the storage time, the G* values decreased over the first 2 or 3 min (of the applied holding time). In addition, prolonging the holding time and storage period resulted in an increase of the samples G* values. Increased DM content and decreased FDM content in SPC samples resulted in increased G* values.
The transition of free-living organisms to parasitic organisms is a mysterious process that occurs in all major eukaryotic lineages. Parasites display seemingly unique features associated with their pathogenicity; however, it is important to distinguish ancestral preconditions to parasitism from truly new parasite-specific functions. Here, we sequenced the genome and transcriptome of anaerobic free-living M. balamuthi and performed phylogenomic analysis of four related members of the Archamoebae, including Entamoeba histolytica, an important intestinal pathogen of humans. We aimed to trace gene histories throughout the adaptation of the aerobic ancestor of Archamoebae to anaerobiosis and throughout the transition from a free-living to a parasitic lifestyle. These events were associated with massive gene losses that, in parasitic lineages, resulted in a reduction in structural features, complete losses of some metabolic pathways, and a reduction in metabolic complexity. By reconstructing the features of the common ancestor of Archamoebae, we estimated preconditions for the evolution of parasitism in this lineage. The ancestor could apparently form chitinous cysts, possessed proteolytic enzyme machinery, compartmentalized the sulfate activation pathway in mitochondrion-related organelles, and possessed the components for anaerobic energy metabolism. After the split of Entamoebidae, this lineage gained genes encoding surface membrane proteins that are involved in host-parasite interactions. In contrast, gene gains identified in the M. balamuthi lineage were predominantly associated with polysaccharide catabolic processes. A phylogenetic analysis of acquired genes suggested an essential role of lateral gene transfer in parasite evolution (Entamoeba) and in adaptation to anaerobic aquatic sediments (Mastigamoeba).
Photoheterotrophic bacteria represent an important part of aquatic microbial communities. There exist two fundamentally different light-harvesting systems: bacteriochlorophyll-containing reaction centers or rhodopsins. Here, we report a photoheterotrophic Sphingomonas strain isolated from an oligotrophic lake, which contains complete sets of genes for both rhodopsin-based and bacteriochlorophyll-based phototrophy. Interestingly, the identified genes were not expressed when cultured in liquid organic media. Using reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), RNA sequencing, and bacteriochlorophyll a quantification, we document that bacteriochlorophyll synthesis was repressed by high concentrations of glucose or galactose in the medium. Coactivation of photosynthesis genes together with genes for TonB-dependent transporters suggests the utilization of light energy for nutrient import. The photosynthetic units were formed by ring-shaped light-harvesting complex 1 and reaction centers with bacteriochlorophyll a and spirilloxanthin as the main light-harvesting pigments. The identified rhodopsin gene belonged to the xanthorhodopsin family, but it lacks salinixanthin antenna. In contrast to bacteriochlorophyll, the expression of xanthorhodopsin remained minimal under all experimental conditions tested. Since the gene was found in the same operon as a histidine kinase, we propose that it might serve as a light sensor. Our results document that photoheterotrophic Sphingomonas bacteria use the energy of light under carbon-limited conditions, while under carbon-replete conditions, they cover all their metabolic needs through oxidative phosphorylation. IMPORTANCE Phototrophic organisms are key components of many natural environments. There exist two main phototrophic groups: species that collect light energy using various kinds of (bacterio)chlorophylls and species that utilize rhodopsins. Here, we present a freshwater bacterium Sphingomonas sp. strain AAP5 which contains genes for both light-harvesting systems. We show that bacteriochlorophyll-based reaction centers are repressed by light and/or glucose. On the other hand, the rhodopsin gene was not expressed significantly under any of the experimental conditions. This may indicate that rhodopsin in Sphingomonas may have other functions not linked to bioenergetics.
Ungulate trampling modifies soils and interlinked ecosystem functions across biomes. Until today, most research has focused on temperate ecosystems and mineral soils while trampling effects on cold and organic matter‐rich tundra soils remain largely unknown. We aimed to develop a general model of trampling effects on soil structure, biota, microclimate and biogeochemical processes, with a particular focus on polar tundra soils. To reach this goal, we reviewed literature about the effects of trampling and physical disturbances on soils across biomes and used this to discuss the knowns and unknowns of trampling effects on tundra soils. We identified the following four pathways through which trampling affects soils: (a) soil compaction; (b) reductions in soil fauna and fungi; (c) rapid losses in vegetation biomass and cover; and (d) longer term shifts in vegetation community composition. We found that, in polar tundra, soil responses to trampling pathways 1 and 3 could be characterized by nonlinear dynamics and tundra‐specific context dependencies that we formulated into testable hypotheses. In conclusion, trampling may affect tundra soil significantly but many direct, interacting and cascading responses remain unknown. We call for research to advance the understanding of trampling effects on soils to support informed efforts to manage and predict the functioning of tundra systems under global changes. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.
Colorless plastids incapable of photosynthesis evolved in many plant and algal groups, but what functions they perform is still unknown in many cases. Here, we study the elusive plastid of Euglena longa , a nonphotosynthetic cousin of the familiar green flagellate Euglena gracilis . We document an unprecedented combination of metabolic functions that the E. longa plastid exhibits in comparison with previously characterized nonphotosynthetic plastids. For example, and truly surprisingly, it has retained the synthesis of tocopherols (vitamin E) and a phylloquinone (vitamin K) derivative. In addition, we offer a possible solution of the long-standing conundrum of the presence of the CO 2 -fixing enzyme RuBisCO in E. longa . Our work provides a detailed account on a unique variant of relic plastids, the first among nonphotosynthetic plastids that evolved by secondary endosymbiosis from a green algal ancestor, and suggests that it has persisted for reasons not previously considered in relation to nonphotosynthetic plastids.
Introduced about a century ago, suramin remains a frontline drug for the management of early-stage east African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). Cellular entry of the causative agent, the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, occurs through receptor-mediated endocytosis involving the parasite’s invariant surface glycoprotein 75 (ISG75), followed by transport of T. brucei into the cytosol via a lysosomal transporter. The molecular basis of the trypanocidal activity of suramin remains unclear, but some evidence suggests broad, but specific, impacts on trypanosome metabolism, i.e. polypharmacology. Here, we observed that suramin is rapidly accumulated in trypanosome cells proportionally to ISG75 abundance on the cells. Although we found little evidence that suramin disrupts glycolytic or glycosomal pathways, we noted increased mitochondrial ATP production, but a net decrease in cellular ATP levels. Results from metabolomics experiments highlighted additional impacts on mitochondrial metabolism, including partial Krebs cycle activation and significant accumulation of pyruvate, corroborated by increased expression of mitochondrial enzymes and transporters. Significantly, the vast majority of suramin-induced proteins were normally more abundant in the insect forms compared with the bloodstage of the parasite, including several proteins associated with differentiation. We conclude that suramin has multiple and complex effects on trypanosomes, but unexpectedly partially activates mitochondrial ATP-generating activity. We propose that despite apparent compensatory mechanisms in drug-challenged cells, the suramin-induced collapse of cellular ATP ultimately leads to trypanosome cell death.
Symbiotic bacteria affect competence for pathogen transmission in insect vectors, including mosquitoes. However, knowledge on mosquito-microbiome-pathogen interactions remains limited, largely due to methodological reasons. The current, cost-effective practice of sample pooling used in mosquito surveillance and epidemiology prevents correlation of individual traits (i.e., microbiome profile) and infection status. Moreover, many mosquito studies employ laboratory-reared colonies that do not necessarily reflect the natural microbiome composition and variation in wild populations. As a consequence, epidemiological and microbiome studies in mosquitoes are to some extent uncoupled, and the interactions among pathogens, microbiomes, and natural mosquito populations remain poorly understood. This study focuses on the effect the pooling practice poses on mosquito microbiome profiles, and tests different approaches to find an optimized low-cost methodology for extensive sampling while allowing for accurate, individual-level microbiome studies. We tested the effect of pooling by comparing wild-caught, individually processed mosquitoes with pooled samples. With individual mosquitoes, we also tested two methodological aspects that directly affect the cost and feasibility of broad-scale molecular studies: sample preservation and tissue dissection. Pooling affected both alpha- and beta-diversity measures of the microbiome, highlighting the importance of using individual samples when possible. Both RNA and DNA yields were higher when using inexpensive reagents such as NAP (nucleic acid preservation) buffer or absolute ethanol, without freezing for short-term storage. Microbiome alpha- and beta-diversity did not show overall significant differences between the tested treatments compared to the controls (freshly extracted samples or dissected guts). However, the use of standardized protocols is highly recommended to avoid methodological bias in the data.
The lateral field pattern of infective juveniles of the nematode family Steinernematidae is an important taxonomic character. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) shows the number of ridges and lines or incisures clearly, but does not provide other details. In the present study, ten species from six clades of Steinernematidae have been studied for their lateral field morphology using SEM and high pressure freezing (HPF) with transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Both methods indicated the same number of ridges and lines, although HPF/TEM resulted in a more detailed morphology with differences between the species. The tips of the ridges are either finely rounded or pointed and the lines are V-shaped or have a broadened bottom. These characters represent an additional pattern that may be characteristic for some species within the phylogenetic clades. Further studies of the lateral field morphology of other species is needed to ascertain whether each pattern is clade specific and phylogenetically valuable.
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56 members
Zoltán Füssy
  • Laboratory of Evolutionary Protistology
Vaclav Honig
  • Laboratory of arbovirology
Ana Born-Torrijos
  • Institute of Parasitology
Natasha Rudenko
  • Laboratory of Molecular Ecology of Vectors and Pathogens
České Budějovice, Czechia