April 21, 2020  |  

Toxin and genome evolution in a Drosophila defensive symbiosis.

Defenses conferred by microbial symbionts play a vital role in the health and fitness of their animal hosts. An important outstanding question in the study of defensive symbiosis is what determines long term stability and effectiveness against diverse natural enemies. In this study, we combine genome and transcriptome sequencing, symbiont transfection and parasite protection experiments, and toxin activity assays to examine the evolution of the defensive symbiosis between Drosophila flies and their vertically transmitted Spiroplasma bacterial symbionts, focusing in particular on ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs), symbiont-encoded toxins that have been implicated in protection against both parasitic wasps and nematodes. Although many strains of Spiroplasma, including the male-killing symbiont (sMel) of Drosophila melanogaster, protect against parasitic wasps, only the strain (sNeo) that infects the mycophagous fly Drosophila neotestacea appears to protect against parasitic nematodes. We find that RIP repertoire is a major differentiating factor between strains that do and do not offer nematode protection, and that sMel RIPs do not show activity against nematode ribosomes in vivo. We also discovered a strain of Spiroplasma infecting a mycophagous phorid fly, Megaselia nigra. Although both the host and its Spiroplasma are distantly related to D. neotestacea and its symbiont, genome sequencing revealed that the M. nigra symbiont encodes abundant and diverse RIPs, including plasmid-encoded toxins that are closely related to the RIPs in sNeo. Our results suggest that distantly related Spiroplasma RIP toxins may perform specialized functions with regard to parasite specificity and suggest an important role for horizontal gene transfer in the emergence of novel defensive phenotypes.


April 21, 2020  |  

Petunia-and Arabidopsis-Specific Root Microbiota Responses to Phosphate Supplementation

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting element for plant growth. Several root microbes, including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), have the capacity to improve plant nutrition and their abundance is known to depend on P fertility. However, how complex root-associated bacterial and fungal communities respond to various levels of P supplementation remains ill-defined. Here we investigated the responses of the root-associated bacteria and fungi to varying levels of P supply using 16S rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer amplicon sequencing. We grew Petunia, which forms symbiosis with AMF, and the nonmycorrhizal model species Arabidopsis as a control in a soil that is limiting in plant-available P and we then supplemented the plants with complete fertilizer solutions that varied only in their phosphate concentrations. We searched for microbes, whose abundances varied by P fertilization, tested whether a core microbiota responding to the P treatments could be identified and asked whether bacterial and fungal co-occurrence patterns change in response to the varying P levels. Root microbiota composition varied substantially in response to the varying P application. A core microbiota was not identified as different bacterial and fungal groups responded to low-P conditions in Arabidopsis and Petunia. Microbes with P-dependent abundance patterns included Mortierellomycotina in Arabidopsis, while in Petunia, they included AMF and their symbiotic endobacteria. Of note, the P-dependent root colonization by AMF was reliably quantified by sequencing. The fact that the root microbiotas of the two plant species responded differently to low-P conditions suggests that plant species specificity would need to be considered for the eventual development of microbial products that improve plant P nutrition.


April 21, 2020  |  

Large Enriched Fragment Targeted Sequencing (LEFT-SEQ) Applied to Capture of Wolbachia Genomes.

Symbiosis is a major force of evolutionary change, influencing virtually all aspects of biology, from population ecology and evolution to genomics and molecular/biochemical mechanisms of development and reproduction. A remarkable example is Wolbachia endobacteria, present in some parasitic nematodes and many arthropod species. Acquisition of genomic data from diverse Wolbachia clades will aid in the elucidation of the different symbiotic mechanisms(s). However, challenges of de novo assembly of Wolbachia genomes include the presence in the sample of host DNA: nematode/vertebrate or insect. We designed biotinylated probes to capture large fragments of Wolbachia DNA for sequencing using PacBio technology (LEFT-SEQ: Large Enriched Fragment Targeted Sequencing). LEFT-SEQ was used to capture and sequence four Wolbachia genomes: the filarial nematode Brugia malayi, wBm, (21-fold enrichment), Drosophila mauritiana flies (2 isolates), wMau (11-fold enrichment), and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, wAlbB (200-fold enrichment). LEFT-SEQ resulted in complete genomes for wBm and for wMau. For wBm, 18 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), relative to the wBm reference, were identified and confirmed by PCR. A limit of LEFT-SEQ is illustrated by the wAlbB genome, characterized by a very high level of insertion sequences elements (ISs) and DNA repeats, for which only a 20-contig draft assembly was achieved.


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