Culture-Facilitated Comparative Genomics of the Facultative Symbiont Hamiltonella defensa.
ABSTRACT: 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:Eukaryotes engage in a multitude of beneficial and deleterious interactions with bacteria. Hamiltonella defensa, an endosymbiont of aphids and other sap-feeding insects, protects its aphid host from attack by parasitoid wasps. Thus H. defensa is only conditionally beneficial to hosts, unlike ancient nutritional symbionts, such as Buchnera, that are obligate. Similar to pathogenic bacteria, H. defensa is able to invade naive hosts and circumvent host immune responses. We have sequenced the genome of H. defensa to identify possible mechanisms that underlie its persistence in healthy aphids and protection from parasitoids. The 2.1-Mb genome has undergone significant reduction in size relative to its closest free-living relatives, which include Yersinia and Serratia species (4.6-5.4 Mb). Auxotrophic for 8 of the 10 essential amino acids, H. defensa is reliant upon the essential amino acids produced by Buchnera. Despite these losses, the H. defensa genome retains more genes and pathways for a variety of cell structures and processes than do obligate symbionts, such as Buchnera. Furthermore, putative pathogenicity loci, encoding type-3 secretion systems, and toxin homologs, which are absent in obligate symbionts, are abundant in the H. defensa genome, as are regulatory genes that likely control the timing of their expression. The genome is also littered with mobile DNA, including phage-derived genes, plasmids, and insertion-sequence elements, highlighting its dynamic nature and the continued role horizontal gene transfer plays in shaping it.
Project description:Secondary endosymbionts of aphids have an important ecological and evolutionary impact on their host, as they provide resistance to natural enemies but also reduce the host's lifespan and reproduction. While secondary symbionts of aphids are faithfully transmitted from mother to offspring, they also have some capacity to be transmitted horizontally between aphids. Here we explore whether 11 isolates from 3 haplotypes of the secondary endosymbiont <i>Hamiltonella defensa</i> differ in their capacity for horizontal transmission. These isolates vary in the protection they provide against parasitoid wasps as well as the costs they inflict on their host, <i>Aphis fabae</i>. We simulated natural horizontal transmission through parasitoid wasps by stabbing aphids with a thin needle and assessed horizontal transmission success of the isolates from one shared donor clone into three different recipient clones. Specifically, we asked whether potentially costly isolates reaching high cell densities in aphid hosts are more readily transmitted through this route. This hypothesis was only partially supported. While transmissibility increased with titre for isolates from two haplotypes, isolates of the <i>H. defensa</i> haplotype 1 were transmitted with greater frequency than isolates of other haplotypes with comparable titres. Thus, it is not sufficient to be merely frequent-endosymbionts might have to evolve specific adaptations to transmit effectively between hosts.
Project description:Bacterial endosymbiosis is an important evolutionary process in insects, which can harbor both obligate and facultative symbionts. The evolution of these symbionts is driven by evolutionary convergence, and they exhibit among the tiniest genomes in prokaryotes. The large host spectrum of facultative symbionts and the high diversity of strategies they use to infect new hosts probably impact the evolution of their genome and explain why they undergo less severe genomic erosion than obligate symbionts. Candidatus Hamiltonella defensa is suitable for the investigation of the genomic evolution of facultative symbionts because the bacteria are engaged in specific relationships in two clades of insects. In aphids, H. defensa is found in several species with an intermediate prevalence and confers protection against parasitoids. In whiteflies, H. defensa is almost fixed in some species of Bemisia tabaci, which suggests an important role of and a transition toward obligate symbiosis. In this study, comparisons of the genome of H. defensa present in two B. tabaci species (Middle East Asia Minor 1 and Mediterranean) and in the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum revealed that they belong to two distinct clades and underwent specific gene losses. In aphids, it contains highly virulent factors that could allow protection and horizontal transfers. In whiteflies, the genome lost these factors and seems to have a limited ability to acquire genes. However it contains genes that could be involved in the production of essential nutrients, which is consistent with a primordial role for this symbiont. In conclusion, although both lineages of H. defensa have mutualistic interactions with their hosts, their genomes follow distinct evolutionary trajectories that reflect their phenotype and could have important consequences on their evolvability.
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:Defences against parasites are typically associated with costs to the host that contribute to the maintenance of variation in resistance. This also applies to the defence provided by the facultative bacterial endosymbiont Hamiltonella defensa, which protects its aphid hosts against parasitoid wasps while imposing life-history costs. To investigate the cost-benefit relationship within protected hosts, we introduced multiple isolates of H. defensa to the same genetic backgrounds of black bean aphids, Aphis fabae, and we quantified the protection against their parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum as well as the costs to the host (reduced lifespan and reproduction) in the absence of parasitoids. Surprisingly, we observed the opposite of a trade-off. Strongly protective isolates of H. defensa reduced lifespan and lifetime reproduction of unparasitized aphids to a lesser extent than weakly protective isolates. This finding has important implications for the evolution of defensive symbiosis and highlights the need for a better understanding of how strain variation in protective symbionts is maintained.
Project description:Bacterial symbionts are omnipresent in insects, particularly aphids, and often exert important effects on the host ecology; however, examples of symbionts that mediate herbivore-plant interactions remain limited. Here, three clones with identical genetic backgrounds were established: a Hamiltonella defensa-free clone, H. defensa-infected clone and H. defensa-cured clone. H. defensa infection was found to increase the fitness of Sitobion miscanthi by increasing the total number of offspring and decreasing the age of first reproduction. Furthermore, gene expression studies and phytohormone measurement showed that feeding by the Hamiltonella-infected clone suppressed the salicylic acid (SA)- and jasmonic acid (JA)-related defense pathways and SA/JA accumulation in wheat plants relative to feeding by the other two clones. Additionally, after feeding by the Hamiltonella-infected clone, the activity levels of the defense-related enzymes polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and peroxidase (POD) in wheat plants were significantly decreased compared with the levels observed after feeding by the other two clones. Taken together, these data reveal for the first time the potential role of H. defensa of S. miscanthi in mediating the anti-plant defense responses of aphids.
Project description:Bacterial symbionts associated with insects are often involved in host development and ecological fitness. In aphids, the role of these symbionts is variable and not fully understood across different host species. Here, we investigated the symbiont diversity of the grain aphid, Sitobion miscanthi (Takahashi), from 17 different geographical areas. Of these, two strains with the same symbiont profile, except for the presence of Hamiltonella defensa, were selected using PCR. The Hamiltonella-infected strain, YX, was collected from a Yuxi wheat field in Yunnan Province, China. The Hamiltonella-free strain, DZ, was collected from a Dezhou wheat field in Shandong Province, China. Using artificial infection with H. defensa and antibiotic treatment, a Hamiltonella-re-infected strain (DZ-H) and Hamiltonella-significantly decreased strain (DZ-HT) were established and compared to the Hamiltonella-free DZ strain in terms of ecological fitness. Infection with the DZ-H strain increased the fitness of S. miscanthi, which led to increases in adult weight, percent of wingless individuals, and number of offspring. Meanwhile, decreased abundance of H. defensa (DZ-HT strain) resulted in a lower adult weight and wingless aphid rate compared to the DZ-H strain. However, the indices of longevity in both the DZ-H and DZ-HT strains decreased slightly, but were not significantly different, compared to the DZ strain. Furthermore, quantitative PCR showed that the relative abundance of the primary symbiont Buchnera aphidicola in the DZ-H strain was significantly higher than in the DZ strain in all but the first developmental stage. These results indicate that H. defensa may indirectly improve the fitness of S. miscanthi by stimulating the proliferation of B. aphidicola.
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: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:There is growing interest in biological control as a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to control pest insects. Aphids are among the most detrimental agricultural pests worldwide, and parasitoid wasps are frequently employed for their control. The use of asexual parasitoids may improve the effectiveness of biological control because only females kill hosts and because asexual populations have a higher growth rate than sexuals. However, asexuals may have a reduced capacity to track evolutionary change in their host populations. We used a factorial experiment to compare the ability of sexual and asexual populations of the parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum to control caged populations of black bean aphids (Aphis fabae) of high and low clonal diversity. The aphids came from a natural population, and one-third of the aphid clones harbored Hamiltonella defensa, a heritable bacterial endosymbiont that increases resistance to parasitoids. We followed aphid and parasitoid population dynamics for 3 months but found no evidence that the reproductive mode of parasitoids affected their effectiveness as biocontrol agents, independent of host clonal diversity. Parasitoids failed to control aphids in most cases, because their introduction resulted in strong selection for clones protected by H. defensa. The increasingly resistant aphid populations escaped control by parasitoids, and we even observed parasitoid extinctions in many cages. The rapid evolution of symbiont-conferred resistance in turn imposed selection on parasitoids. In cages where asexual parasitoids persisted until the end of the experiment, they became dominated by a single genotype able to overcome the protection provided by H. defensa. Thus, there was evidence for parasitoid counteradaptation, but it was generally too slow for parasitoids to regain control over aphid populations. It appears that when pest aphids possess defensive symbionts, the presence of parasitoid genotypes able to overcome symbiont-conferred resistance is more important for biocontrol success than their reproductive mode.