September 22, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequence of Elizabethkingia sp. BM10, a symbiotic bacterium of the wood-feeding termite Reticulitermes speratus KMT1.

Elizabethkingia sp. BM10 was isolated from the hindgut of the wood-feeding termite Reticulitermes speratus KMT1. It had cellobiohydrolase and ß-glucosidase activities but not endo-ß-glucanase activity. The complete sequence of its genome, which has a total size of 4,242,519 bases, is reported here. The genomic analysis identified six ß-glucosidase candidate genes and three ß-glucanase candidate genes. Copyright © 2015 Lee et al.


September 22, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequence of Endomicrobium proavitum, a free-living relative of the intracellular symbionts of termite gut flagellates (phylum Elusimicrobia).

We sequenced the complete genome of Endomicrobium proavitum strain Rsa215, the first isolate of the class Endomicrobia (phylum Elusimicrobia). It is the closest free-living relative of the endosymbionts of termite gut flagellates and thereby provides an excellent model for studying the evolutionary processes during the establishment of an intracellular symbiosis. Copyright © 2015 Zheng and Brune.


September 22, 2019  |  

Gill bacteria enable a novel digestive strategy in a wood-feeding mollusk.

Bacteria play many important roles in animal digestive systems, including the provision of enzymes critical to digestion. Typically, complex communities of bacteria reside in the gut lumen in direct contact with the ingested materials they help to digest. Here, we demonstrate a previously undescribed digestive strategy in the wood-eating marine bivalve Bankia setacea, wherein digestive bacteria are housed in a location remote from the gut. These bivalves, commonly known as shipworms, lack a resident microbiota in the gut compartment where wood is digested but harbor endosymbiotic bacteria within specialized cells in their gills. We show that this comparatively simple bacterial community produces wood-degrading enzymes that are selectively translocated from gill to gut. These enzymes, which include just a small subset of the predicted wood-degrading enzymes encoded in the endosymbiont genomes, accumulate in the gut to the near exclusion of other endosymbiont-made proteins. This strategy of remote enzyme production provides the shipworm with a mechanism to capture liberated sugars from wood without competition from an endogenous gut microbiota. Because only those proteins required for wood digestion are translocated to the gut, this newly described system reveals which of many possible enzymes and enzyme combinations are minimally required for wood degradation. Thus, although it has historically had negative impacts on human welfare, the shipworm digestive process now has the potential to have a positive impact on industries that convert wood and other plant biomass to renewable fuels, fine chemicals, food, feeds, textiles, and paper products.


September 22, 2019  |  

Metagenomic binning of a marine sponge microbiome reveals unity in defense but metabolic specialization.

Marine sponges are ancient metazoans that are populated by distinct and highly diverse microbial communities. In order to obtain deeper insights into the functional gene repertoire of the Mediterranean sponge Aplysina aerophoba, we combined Illumina short-read and PacBio long-read sequencing followed by un-targeted metagenomic binning. We identified a total of 37 high-quality bins representing 11 bacterial phyla and two candidate phyla. Statistical comparison of symbiont genomes with selected reference genomes revealed a significant enrichment of genes related to bacterial defense (restriction-modification systems, toxin-antitoxin systems) as well as genes involved in host colonization and extracellular matrix utilization in sponge symbionts. A within-symbionts genome comparison revealed a nutritional specialization of at least two symbiont guilds, where one appears to metabolize carnitine and the other sulfated polysaccharides, both of which are abundant molecules in the sponge extracellular matrix. A third guild of symbionts may be viewed as nutritional generalists that perform largely the same metabolic pathways but lack such extraordinary numbers of the relevant genes. This study characterizes the genomic repertoire of sponge symbionts at an unprecedented resolution and it provides greater insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying microbial-sponge symbiosis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative genomics and transcriptomics depict ericoid mycorrhizal fungi as versatile saprotrophs and plant mutualists.

Some soil fungi in the Leotiomycetes form ericoid mycorrhizal (ERM) symbioses with Ericaceae. In the harsh habitats in which they occur, ERM plant survival relies on nutrient mobilization from soil organic matter (SOM) by their fungal partners. The characterization of the fungal genetic machinery underpinning both the symbiotic lifestyle and SOM degradation is needed to understand ERM symbiosis functioning and evolution, and its impact on soil carbon (C) turnover. We sequenced the genomes of the ERM fungi Meliniomyces bicolor, M. variabilis, Oidiodendron maius and Rhizoscyphus ericae, and compared their gene repertoires with those of fungi with different lifestyles (ecto- and orchid mycorrhiza, endophytes, saprotrophs, pathogens). We also identified fungal transcripts induced in symbiosis. The ERM fungal gene contents for polysaccharide-degrading enzymes, lipases, proteases and enzymes involved in secondary metabolism are closer to those of saprotrophs and pathogens than to those of ectomycorrhizal symbionts. The fungal genes most highly upregulated in symbiosis are those coding for fungal and plant cell wall-degrading enzymes (CWDEs), lipases, proteases, transporters and mycorrhiza-induced small secreted proteins (MiSSPs). The ERM fungal gene repertoire reveals a capacity for a dual saprotrophic and biotrophic lifestyle. This may reflect an incomplete transition from saprotrophy to the mycorrhizal habit, or a versatile life strategy similar to fungal endophytes.© 2018 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2018 New Phytologist Trust.


September 22, 2019  |  

Culture-facilitated comparative genomics of the facultative symbiont Hamiltonella defensa.

Many insects host facultative, bacterial symbionts that confer conditional fitness benefits to their hosts. Hamiltonella defensa is a common facultative symbiont of aphids that provides protection against parasitoid wasps. Protection levels vary among strains of H. defensa that are also differentially infected by bacteriophages named APSEs. However, little is known about trait variation among strains because only one isolate has been fully sequenced. Generating complete genomes for facultative symbionts is hindered by relatively large genome sizes but low abundances in hosts like aphids that are very small. Here, we took advantage of methods for culturing H. defensa outside of aphids to generate complete genomes and transcriptome data for four strains of H. defensa from the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Chosen strains also spanned the breadth of the H. defensa phylogeny and differed in strength of protection conferred against parasitoids. Results indicated that strains shared most genes with roles in nutrient acquisition, metabolism, and essential housekeeping functions. In contrast, the inventory of mobile genetic elements varied substantially, which generated strain specific differences in gene content and genome architecture. In some cases, specific traits correlated with differences in protection against parasitoids, but in others high variation between strains obscured identification of traits with likely roles in defense. Transcriptome data generated continuous distributions to genome assemblies with some genes that were highly expressed and others that were not. Single molecule real-time sequencing further identified differences in DNA methylation patterns and restriction modification systems that provide defense against phage infection.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genomic changes associated with the evolutionary transitions of Nostoc to a plant symbiont.

Cyanobacteria belonging to the genus Nostoc comprise free-living strains and also facultative plant symbionts. Symbiotic strains can enter into symbiosis with taxonomically diverse range of host plants. Little is known about genomic changes associated with evolutionary transition of Nostoc from free-living to plant symbiont. Here, we compared the genomes derived from 11 symbiotic Nostoc strains isolated from different host plants and infer phylogenetic relationships between strains. Phylogenetic reconstructions of 89 Nostocales showed that symbiotic Nostoc strains with a broad host range, entering epiphytic and intracellular or extracellular endophytic interactions, form a monophyletic clade indicating a common evolutionary history. A polyphyletic origin was found for Nostoc strains which enter only extracellular symbioses, and inference of transfer events implied that this trait was likely acquired several times in the evolution of the Nostocales. Symbiotic Nostoc strains showed enriched functions in transport and metabolism of organic sulfur, chemotaxis and motility, as well as the uptake of phosphate, branched-chain amino acids, and ammonium. The genomes of the intracellular clade differ from that of other Nostoc strains, with a gain/enrichment of genes encoding proteins to generate l-methionine from sulfite and pathways for the degradation of the plant metabolites vanillin and vanillate, and of the macromolecule xylan present in plant cell walls. These compounds could function as C-sources for members of the intracellular clade. Molecular clock analysis indicated that the intracellular clade emerged ca. 600 Ma, suggesting that intracellular Nostoc symbioses predate the origin of land plants and the emergence of their extant hosts.


September 22, 2019  |  

Coordinated regulation of core and accessory genes in the multipartite genome of Sinorhizobium fredii.

Prokaryotes benefit from having accessory genes, but it is unclear how accessory genes can be linked with the core regulatory network when developing adaptations to new niches. Here we determined hierarchical core/accessory subsets in the multipartite pangenome (composed of genes from the chromosome, chromid and plasmids) of the soybean microsymbiont Sinorhizobium fredii by comparing twelve Sinorhizobium genomes. Transcriptomes of two S. fredii strains at mid-log and stationary growth phases and in symbiotic conditions were obtained. The average level of gene expression, variation of expression between different conditions, and gene connectivity within the co-expression network were positively correlated with the gene conservation level from strain-specific accessory genes to genus core. Condition-dependent transcriptomes exhibited adaptive transcriptional changes in pangenome subsets shared by the two strains, while strain-dependent transcriptomes were enriched with accessory genes on the chromid. Proportionally more chromid genes than plasmid genes were co-expressed with chromosomal genes, while plasmid genes had a higher within-replicon connectivity in expression than chromid ones. However, key nitrogen fixation genes on the symbiosis plasmid were characterized by high connectivity in both within- and between-replicon analyses. Among those genes with host-specific upregulation patterns, chromosomal znu and mdt operons, encoding a conserved high-affinity zinc transporter and an accessory multi-drug efflux system, respectively, were experimentally demonstrated to be involved in host-specific symbiotic adaptation. These findings highlight the importance of integrative regulation of hierarchical core/accessory components in the multipartite genome of bacteria during niche adaptation and in shaping the prokaryotic pangenome in the long run.


September 22, 2019  |  

Modeling trophic dependencies and exchanges among insects’ bacterial symbionts in a host-simulated environment.

Individual organisms are linked to their communities and ecosystems via metabolic activities. Metabolic exchanges and co-dependencies have long been suggested to have a pivotal role in determining community structure. In phloem-feeding insects such metabolic interactions with bacteria enable complementation of their deprived nutrition. The phloem-feeding whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) harbors an obligatory symbiotic bacterium, as well as varying combinations of facultative symbionts. This well-defined bacterial community in B. tabaci serves here as a case study for a comprehensive and systematic survey of metabolic interactions within the bacterial community and their associations with documented occurrences of bacterial combinations. We first reconstructed the metabolic networks of five common B. tabaci symbionts genera (Portiera, Rickettsia, Hamiltonella, Cardinium and Wolbachia), and then used network analysis approaches to predict: (1) species-specific metabolic capacities in a simulated bacteriocyte-like environment; (2) metabolic capacities of the corresponding species’ combinations, and (3) dependencies of each species on different media components.The predictions for metabolic capacities of the symbionts in the host environment were in general agreement with previously reported genome analyses, each focused on the single-species level. The analysis suggests several previously un-reported routes for complementary interactions and estimated the dependency of each symbiont in specific host metabolites. No clear association was detected between metabolic co-dependencies and co-occurrence patterns.The analysis generated predictions for testable hypotheses of metabolic exchanges and co-dependencies in bacterial communities and by crossing them with co-occurrence profiles, contextualized interaction patterns into a wider ecological perspective.


September 22, 2019  |  

Insect symbionts as valuable grist for the biotechnological mill: an alkaliphilic silkworm gut bacterium for efficient lactic acid production.

Insects constitute the most abundant and diverse animal class and act as hosts to an extraordinary variety of symbiotic microorganisms. These microbes living inside the insects play critical roles in host biology and are also valuable bioresources. Enterococcus mundtii EMB156, isolated from the larval gut (gut pH >10) of the model organism Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae), efficiently produces lactic acid, an important metabolite for industrial production of bioplastic materials. E. mundtii EMB156 grows well under alkaline conditions and stably converts various carbon sources into lactic acid, offering advantages in downstream fermentative processes. High-yield lactic acid production can be achieved by the strain EMB156 from renewable biomass substrates under alkaline pretreatments. Single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing technology revealed its 3.01 Mbp whole genome sequence. A total of 2956 protein-coding sequences, 65 tRNA genes, and 6 rRNA operons were predicted in the EMB156 chromosome. Remarkable genomic features responsible for lactic acid fermentation included key enzymes involved in the pentose phosphate (PP)/glycolytic pathway, and an alpha amylase and xylose isomerase were characterized in EMB156. This genomic information coincides with the phenotype of E. mundtii EMB156, reflecting its metabolic flexibility in efficient lactate fermentation, and established a foundation for future biotechnological application. Interestingly, enzyme activities of amylase were quite stable in high-pH broths, indicating a possible mechanism for strong EMB156 growth in an alkaline environment, thereby facilitating lactic acid production. Together, these findings implied that valuable lactic acid-producing bacteria can be discovered efficiently by screening under the extremely alkaline conditions, as exemplified by gut microbial symbionts of Lepidoptera insects.


September 22, 2019  |  

Parallels between experimental and natural evolution of legume symbionts.

The emergence of symbiotic interactions has been studied using population genomics in nature and experimental evolution in the laboratory, but the parallels between these processes remain unknown. Here we compare the emergence of rhizobia after the horizontal transfer of a symbiotic plasmid in natural populations of Cupriavidus taiwanensis, over 10 MY ago, with the experimental evolution of symbiotic Ralstonia solanacearum for a few hundred generations. In spite of major differences in terms of time span, environment, genetic background, and phenotypic achievement, both processes resulted in rapid genetic diversification dominated by purifying selection. We observe no adaptation in the plasmid carrying the genes responsible for the ecological transition. Instead, adaptation was associated with positive selection in a set of genes that led to the co-option of the same quorum-sensing system in both processes. Our results provide evidence for similarities in experimental and natural evolutionary transitions and highlight the potential of comparisons between both processes to understand symbiogenesis.


September 22, 2019  |  

Recurrent symbiont recruitment from fungal parasites in cicadas.

Diverse insects are associated with ancient bacterial symbionts, whose genomes have often suffered drastic reduction and degeneration. In extreme cases, such symbiont genomes seem almost unable to sustain the basic cellular functioning, which comprises an open question in the evolution of symbiosis. Here, we report an insect group wherein an ancient symbiont lineage suffering massive genome erosion has experienced recurrent extinction and replacement by host-associated pathogenic microbes. Cicadas are associated with the ancient bacterial co-obligate symbionts Sulcia and Hodgkinia, whose streamlined genomes are specialized for synthesizing essential amino acids, thereby enabling the host to live on plant sap. However, our inspection of 24 Japanese cicada species revealed that while all species possessed Sulcia, only nine species retained Hodgkinia, and their genomes exhibited substantial structural instability. The remaining 15 species lacked Hodgkinia and instead harbored yeast-like fungal symbionts. Detailed phylogenetic analyses uncovered repeated Hodgkinia-fungus and fungus-fungus replacements in cicadas. The fungal symbionts were phylogenetically intermingled with cicada-parasitizing Ophiocordyceps fungi, identifying entomopathogenic origins of the fungal symbionts. Most fungal symbionts of cicadas were uncultivable, but the fungal symbiont of Meimuna opalifera was cultivable, possibly because it is at an early stage of fungal symbiont replacement. Genome sequencing of the fungal symbiont revealed its metabolic versatility, presumably capable of synthesizing almost all amino acids, vitamins, and other metabolites, which is more than sufficient to compensate for the Hodgkinia loss. These findings highlight a straightforward ecological and evolutionary connection between parasitism and symbiosis, which may provide an evolutionary trajectory to renovate deteriorated ancient symbiosis via pathogen domestication. Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


September 22, 2019  |  

Evidence of non-tandemly repeated rDNAs and their intragenomic heterogeneity in Rhizophagus irregularis

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF) species are some of the most widespread symbionts of land plants. Our much improved reference genome assembly of a model AMF, Rhizophagus irregularis DAOM-181602 (total contigs?=?210), facilitated a discovery of repetitive elements with unusual characteristics. R. irregularis has only ten or 11 copies of complete 45S rDNAs, whereas the general eukaryotic genome has tens to thousands of rDNA copies. R. irregularis rDNAs are highly heterogeneous and lack a tandem repeat structure. These findings provide evidence for the hypothesis that rDNA heterogeneity depends on the lack of tandem repeat structures. RNA-Seq analysis confirmed that all rDNA variants are actively transcribed. Observed rDNA/rRNA polymorphisms may modulate translation by using different ribosomes depending on biotic and abiotic interactions. The non-tandem repeat structure and intragenomic heterogeneity of AMF rDNA/rRNA may facilitate successful adaptation to various environmental conditions, increasing host compatibility of these symbiotic fungi.


July 19, 2019  |  

Microplitis demolitor bracovirus proviral loci and clustered replication genes exhibit distinct DNA amplification patterns during replication.

Polydnaviruses are large, double-stranded DNA viruses that are beneficial symbionts of parasitoid wasps. Polydnaviruses in the genus Bracovirus (BVs) persist in wasps as proviruses, and their genomes consist of two functional components referred to as proviral segments and nudivirus-like genes. Prior studies established that the DNA domains where proviral segments reside are amplified during replication and that segments within amplified loci are circularized before packaging into nucleocapsids. One DNA domain where nudivirus-like genes are located is also amplified but never packaged into virions. We recently sequenced the genome of the braconid Microplitis demolitor, which carries M. demolitor bracovirus (MdBV). Here, we took advantage of this resource to characterize the DNAs that are amplified during MdBV replication using a combination of Illumina and Pacific Biosciences sequencing approaches. The results showed that specific nucleotide sites identify the boundaries of amplification for proviral loci. Surprisingly, however, amplification of loci 3, 4, 6, and 8 produced head-to-tail concatemeric intermediates; loci 1, 2, and 5 produced head-to-head/tail-to-tail concatemers; and locus 7 yielded no identified concatemers. Sequence differences at amplification junctions correlated with the types of amplification intermediates the loci produced, while concatemer processing gave rise to the circularized DNAs that are packaged into nucleocapsids. The MdBV nudivirus-like gene cluster was also amplified, albeit more weakly than most proviral loci and with nondiscrete boundaries. Overall, the MdBV genome exhibited three patterns of DNA amplification during replication. Our data also suggest that PacBio sequencing could be useful in studying the replication intermediates produced by other DNA viruses. Polydnaviruses are of fundamental interest because they provide a novel example of viruses evolving into beneficial symbionts. All polydnaviruses are associated with insects called parasitoid wasps, which are of additional applied interest because many are biological control agents of pest insects. Polydnaviruses in the genus Bracovirus (BVs) evolved ~100 million years ago from an ancestor related to the baculovirus-nudivirus lineage but have also established many novelties due to their symbiotic lifestyle. These include the fact that BVs are transmitted only vertically as proviruses and produce replication-defective virions that package only a portion of the viral genome. Here, we studied Microplitis demolitor bracovirus (MdBV) and report that its genome exhibits three distinct patterns of DNA amplification during replication. We also identify several previously unknown features of BV genomes that correlate with these different amplification patterns. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


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