Phage loss and the breakdown of a defensive symbiosis in aphids.
ABSTRACT: Terrestrial arthropods are often infected with heritable bacterial symbionts, which may themselves be infected by bacteriophages. However, what role, if any, bacteriophages play in the regulation and maintenance of insect-bacteria symbioses is largely unknown. Infection of the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum by the bacterial symbiont Hamiltonella defensa confers protection against parasitoid wasps, but only when H. defensa is itself infected by the phage A. pisum secondary endosymbiont (APSE). Here, we use a controlled genetic background and correlation-based assays to show that loss of APSE is associated with up to sevenfold increases in the intra-aphid abundance of H. defensa. APSE loss is also associated with severe deleterious effects on aphid fitness: aphids infected with H. defensa lacking APSE have a significantly delayed onset of reproduction, lower weight at adulthood and half as many total offspring as aphids infected with phage-harbouring H. defensa, indicating that phage loss can rapidly lead to the breakdown of the defensive symbiosis. Our results overall indicate that bacteriophages play critical roles in both aphid defence and the maintenance of heritable symbiosis.
Project description:The lysogenic bacteriophage APSE infects "Candidatus Hamiltonella defensa," a facultative endosymbiont of aphids and other sap-feeding insects. This endosymbiont has established a beneficial association with aphids, increasing survivorship following attack by parasitoid wasps. Although APSE and "Ca. Hamiltonella defensa" are effectively maternally transmitted between aphid generations, they can also be horizontally transferred among insect hosts, which results in genetically distinct "Ca. Hamiltonella defensa" strains infecting the same aphid species and sporadic distributions of both APSE and "Ca. Hamiltonella defensa" among hosts. Aphids infected only with "Ca. Hamiltonella defensa" have significantly less protection than those infected with both "Ca. Hamiltonella defensa" and APSE. This protection has been proposed to be connected to eukaryote-targeted toxins previously discovered in the genomes of two characterized APSE strains. In this study, we have sequenced partial genomes from seven additional APSE strains to address the evolution and extent of toxin variation in this phage. The APSE lysis region has been a hot spot for nonhomologous recombination of novel virulence cassettes. We identified four new toxins from three protein families, Shiga-like toxin, cytolethal distending toxin, and YD-repeat toxins. These recombination events have also resulted in reassortment of the downstream lysozyme and holin genes. Analysis of the conserved APSE genes flanking the variable toxin cassettes reveals a close phylogenetic association with phage sequences from two other facultative endosymbionts of insects. Thus, phage may act as a conduit for ongoing gene exchange among heritable endosymbionts.
Project description:Heritable symbionts are common in insects with many contributing to host defence. Hamiltonella defensa is a facultative, bacterial symbiont of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum that provides protection against the endoparasitoid wasp Aphidius ervi Protection levels vary among strains of H. defensa that are differentially infected by bacteriophages named APSEs. By contrast, little is known about mechanism(s) of resistance owing to the intractability of host-restricted microbes for functional study. Here, we developed methods for culturing strains of H. defensa that varied in the presence and type of APSE. Most H. defensa strains proliferated at 27°C in co-cultures with the TN5 cell line or as pure cultures with no insect cells. The strain infected by APSE3, which provides high levels of protection in vivo, produced a soluble factor(s) that disabled development of A. ervi embryos independent of any aphid factors. Experimental transfer of APSE3 also conferred the ability to disable A. ervi development to a phage-free strain of H. defensa Altogether, these results provide a critical foundation for characterizing symbiont-derived factor(s) involved in host protection and other functions. Our results also demonstrate that phage-mediated transfer of traits provides a mechanism for innovation in host restricted symbionts.
Project description:Aphids maintain mutualistic symbioses involving consortia of coinherited organisms. All possess a primary endosymbiont, Buchnera, which compensates for dietary deficiencies; many also contain secondary symbionts, such as Hamiltonella defensa, which confers defense against natural enemies. Genome sequences of uncultivable secondary symbionts have been refractory to analysis due to the difficulties of isolating adequate DNA samples. By amplifying DNA from hemolymph of infected pea aphids, we obtained a set of genomic sequences of H. defensa and an associated bacteriophage. H. defensa harbors two type III secretion systems, related to those that mediate host cell entry by enteric pathogens. The phage, called APSE-2, is a close relative of the previously sequenced APSE-1 but contains intact homologs of the gene encoding cytolethal distending toxin (cdtB), which interrupts the eukaryotic cell cycle and which is known from a variety of mammalian pathogens. The cdtB homolog is highly expressed, and its genomic position corresponds to that of a homolog of stx (encoding Shiga-toxin) within APSE-1. APSE-2 genomes were consistently abundant in infected pea aphids, and related phages were found in all tested isolates of H. defensa, from numerous insect species. Based on their ubiquity and abundance, these phages appear to be an obligate component of the H. defensa life cycle. We propose that, in these mutualistic symbionts, phage-borne toxin genes provide defense to the aphid host and are a basis for the observed protection against eukaryotic parasites.
Project description:Bacteriophages are known to carry key virulence factors for pathogenic bacteria, but their roles in symbiotic bacteria are less well understood. The heritable symbiont Hamiltonella defensa protects the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum from attack by the parasitoid Aphidius ervi by killing developing wasp larvae. In a controlled genetic background, we show that a toxin-encoding bacteriophage is required to produce the protective phenotype. Phage loss occurs repeatedly in laboratory-held H. defensa-infected aphid clonal lines, resulting in increased susceptibility to parasitism in each instance. Our results show that these mobile genetic elements can endow a bacterial symbiont with benefits that extend to the animal host. Thus, phages vector ecologically important traits, such as defense against parasitoids, within and among symbiont and animal host lineages.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Many animals exhibit variation in resistance to specific natural enemies. Such variation may be encoded in their genomes or derived from infection with protective symbionts. The pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, for example, exhibits tremendous variation in susceptibility to a common natural enemy, the parasitic wasp Aphidius ervi. Pea aphids are often infected with the heritable bacterial symbiont, Hamiltonella defensa, which confers partial to complete resistance against this parasitoid depending on bacterial strain and associated bacteriophages. That previous studies found that pea aphids without H. defensa (or other symbionts) were generally susceptible to parasitism, together with observations of a limited encapsulation response, suggested that pea aphids largely rely on infection with H. defensa for protection against parasitoids. However, the limited number of uninfected clones previously examined, and our recent report of two symbiont-free resistant clones, led us to explicitly examine aphid-encoded variability in resistance to parasitoids. RESULTS:After rigorous screening for known and unknown symbionts, and microsatellite genotyping to confirm clonal identity, we conducted parasitism assays using fifteen clonal pea aphid lines. We recovered significant variability in aphid-encoded resistance, with variation levels comparable to that contributed by H. defensa. Because resistance can be costly, we also measured aphid longevity and cumulative fecundity of the most and least resistant aphid lines under permissive conditions, but found no trade-offs between higher resistance and these fitness parameters. CONCLUSIONS:These results indicate that pea aphid resistance to A. ervi is more complex than previously appreciated, and that aphids employ multiple tactics to aid in their defense. While we did not detect a tradeoff, these may become apparent under stressful conditions or when resistant and susceptible aphids are in direct competition. Understanding sources and amounts of variation in resistance to natural enemies is necessary to understand the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of antagonistic interactions, such as the potential for coevolution, but also for the successful management of pest populations through biological control.
Project description:Many insects are associated with heritable symbionts that mediate ecological interactions, including host protection against natural enemies. The cowpea aphid, Aphis craccivora, is a polyphagous pest that harbors Hamiltonella defensa, which defends against parasitic wasps. Despite this protective benefit, this symbiont occurs only at intermediate frequencies in field populations. To identify factors constraining H. defensa invasion in Ap. craccivora, we estimated symbiont transmission rates, performed fitness assays, and measured infection dynamics in population cages to evaluate effects of infection. Similar to results with the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, we found no consistent costs to infection using component fitness assays, but we did identify clear costs to infection in population cages when no enemies were present. Maternal transmission rates of H. defensa in Ap. craccivora were high (ca. 99%) but not perfect. Transmission failures and infection costs likely limit the spread of protective H. defensa in Ap. craccivora. We also characterized several parameters of H. defensa infection potentially relevant to the protective phenotype. We confirmed the presence of H. defensa in aphid hemolymph, where it potentially interacts with endoparasites, and performed real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) to estimate symbiont and phage abundance during aphid development. We also examined strain variation of H. defensa and its bacteriophage at multiple loci, and despite our lines being collected in different regions of North America, they were infected with a nearly identical strains of H. defensa and APSE4 phage. The limited strain diversity observed for these defensive elements may result in relatively static protection profile for this defensive symbiosis.
Project description: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.
Project description:Animal-associated microbes are highly variable, contributing to a diverse set of symbiont-mediated phenotypes. Given that host and symbiont genotypes, and their interactions, can impact symbiont-based phenotypes across environments, there is potential for extensive variation in fitness outcomes. Pea aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum, host a diverse assemblage of heritable facultative symbionts (HFS) with characterized roles in host defense. Protective phenotypes have been largely studied as single infections, but pea aphids often carry multiple HFS species, and particular combinations may be enriched or depleted compared to expectations based on chance. Here, we examined the consequences of single infection versus coinfection with two common HFS exhibiting variable enrichment, the antiparasitoid Hamiltonella defensa and the antipathogen Regiella insecticola, across three host genotypes and environments. As expected, single infections with either H. defensa or R. insecticola raised defenses against their respective targets. Single infections with protective H. defensa lowered aphid fitness in the absence of enemy challenge, while R. insecticola was comparatively benign. However, as a coinfection, R. insecticola ameliorated H. defensa infection costs. Coinfected aphids continued to receive antiparasitoid protection from H. defensa, but protection was weakened by R. insecticola in two clones. Notably, H. defensa eliminated survival benefits conferred after pathogen exposure by coinfecting R. insecticola Since pathogen sporulation was suppressed by R. insecticola in coinfected aphids, the poor performance likely stemmed from H. defensa-imposed costs rather than weakened defenses. Our results reveal a complex set of coinfection outcomes which may partially explain natural infection patterns and suggest that symbiont-based phenotypes may not be easily predicted based solely on infection status.IMPORTANCE The hyperdiverse arthropods often harbor maternally transmitted bacteria that protect against natural enemies. In many species, low-diversity communities of heritable symbionts are common, providing opportunities for cooperation and conflict among symbionts, which can impact the defensive services rendered. Using the pea aphid, a model for defensive symbiosis, we show that coinfections with two common defensive symbionts, the antipathogen Regiella and the antiparasite Hamiltonella, produce outcomes that are highly variable compared to single infections, which consistently protect against designated enemies. Compared to single infections, coinfections often reduced defensive services during enemy challenge yet improved aphid fitness in the absence of enemies. Thus, infection with multiple symbionts does not necessarily create generalist aphids with "Swiss army knife" defenses against numerous enemies. Instead, particular combinations of symbionts may be favored for a variety of reasons, including their abilities to lessen the costs of other defensive symbionts when enemies are not present.
Project description:Insects and other animals commonly form symbioses with heritable bacteria, which can exert large influences on host biology and ecology. The pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, is a model for studying effects of infection with heritable facultative symbionts (HFS), and each of its seven common HFS species has been reported to provide resistance to biotic or abiotic stresses. However, one common HFS, called X-type, rarely occurs as a single infection in field populations and instead typically superinfects individual aphids with Hamiltonella defensa, another HFS that protects aphids against attack by parasitic wasps. Using experimental aphid lines comprised of all possible infection combinations in a uniform aphid genotype, we investigated whether the most common strain of X-type provides any of the established benefits associated with aphid HFS as a single infection or superinfection with H. defensa We found that X-type does not confer protection to any tested threats, including parasitoid wasps, fungal pathogens, or thermal stress. Instead, component fitness assays identified large costs associated with X-type infection, costs which were ameliorated in superinfected aphids. Together these findings suggest that X-type exploits the aphid/H. defensa mutualism and is maintained primarily as a superinfection by "hitchhiking" via the mutualistic benefits provided by another HFS. Exploitative symbionts potentially restrict the functions and distributions of mutualistic symbioses with effects that extend to other community members.IMPORTANCE Maternally transmitted bacterial symbionts are widespread and can have major impacts on the biology of arthropods, including insects of medical and agricultural importance. Given that host fitness and symbiont fitness are tightly linked, inherited symbionts can spread within host populations by providing beneficial services. Many insects, however, are frequently infected with multiple heritable symbiont species, providing potential alternative routes of symbiont maintenance. Here we show that a common pea aphid symbiont called X-type likely employs an exploitative strategy of hitchhiking off the benefits of a protective symbiont, Hamiltonella Infection with X-type provides none of the benefits conferred by other aphid symbionts and instead results in large fitness costs, costs lessened by superinfection with Hamiltonella These findings are corroborated by natural infections in field populations, where X-type is mostly found superinfecting aphids with Hamiltonella Exploitative symbionts may be common in hosts with communities of heritable symbionts and serve to hasten the breakdown of mutualisms.
Project description:There is increasing demand for sustainable pest management to reduce harmful effects of pesticides on the environment and human health. For pest aphids, biological control with parasitoid wasps provides a welcome alternative, particularly in greenhouses. However, aphids are frequently infected with the heritable bacterial endosymbiont Hamiltonella defensa, which increases resistance to parasitoids and thereby hampers biological control. Using the black bean aphid (Aphis fabae) and its main parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum, we tested whether prior adaptation of parasitoids can improve the control of symbiont-protected pests. We had parasitoid lines adapted to two different strains of H. defensa by experimental evolution, as well as parasitoids evolved on H. defensa-free aphids. We compared their ability to control caged aphid populations comprising 60% unprotected and 40% H. defensa-protected aphids, with both H. defensa strains present in the populations. Parasitoids that were not adapted to H. defensa had virtually no effect on aphid population dynamics compared to parasitoid-free controls, but one of the adapted lines and a mixture of both adapted lines controlled aphids successfully, strongly benefitting plant growth. Selection by parasitoids altered aphid population composition in a very specific manner. Aphid populations became dominated by H. defensa-protected aphids in the presence of parasitoids, and each adapted parasitoid line selected for the H. defensa strain it was not adapted to. This study shows, for the first time, that prior adaptation of parasitoids improves biological control of symbiont-protected pests, but the high specificity of parasitoid counter-resistance may represent a challenge for its implementation.