More Is Not Always Better: Coinfections with Defensive Symbionts Generate Highly Variable Outcomes.
ABSTRACT: 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:Heritable symbionts are common in terrestrial arthropods and often provide beneficial services to hosts. Unlike obligate, nutritional symbionts that largely persist under strict host control within specialized host cells, heritable facultative symbionts exhibit large variation in within-host lifestyles and services rendered with many retaining the capacity to transition among roles. One enigmatic symbiont, Candidatus Fukatsuia symbiotica, frequently infects aphids with reported roles ranging from pathogen, defensive symbiont, mutualism exploiter, and nutritional co-obligate symbiont. Here, we used an in vitro culture-assisted protocol to sequence the genome of a facultative strain of Fukatsuia from pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum). Phylogenetic and genomic comparisons indicate that Fukatsuia is an aerobic heterotroph, which together with Regiella insecticola and Hamiltonella defensa form a clade of heritable facultative symbionts within the Yersiniaceae (Enterobacteriales). These three heritable facultative symbionts largely share overlapping inventories of genes associated with housekeeping functions, metabolism, and nutrient acquisition, while varying in complements of mobile DNA. One unusual feature of Fukatsuia is its strong tendency to occur as a coinfection with H. defensa. However, the overall similarity of gene inventories among aphid heritable facultative symbionts suggests that metabolic complementarity is not the basis for coinfection, unless playing out on a H. defensa strain-specific basis. We also compared the pea aphid Fukatsuia with a strain from the aphid Cinara confinis (Lachninae) where it is reported to have transitioned to co-obligate status to support decaying Buchnera function. Overall, the two genomes are very similar with no clear genomic signatures consistent with such a transition, which suggests co-obligate status in C. confinis was a recent event.
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:Eukaryotes commonly host communities of heritable symbiotic bacteria, many of which are not essential for their hosts' survival and reproduction. There is laboratory evidence that these facultative symbionts can provide useful adaptations, such as increased resistance to natural enemies. However, we do not know how symbionts affect host fitness when the latter are subject to attack by a natural suite of parasites and pathogens. Here, we test whether two protective symbionts, Regiella insecticola and Hamiltonella defensa, increase the fitness of their host, the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum), under natural conditions. We placed experimental populations of two pea aphid lines, each with and without symbionts, in five wet meadow sites to expose them to a natural assembly of enemy species. The aphids were then retrieved and mortality from parasitoids, fungal pathogens and other causes assessed. We found that both Regiella and Hamiltonella reduce the proportion of aphids killed by the specific natural enemies against which they have been shown to protect in laboratory and cage experiments. However, this advantage was nullified (Hamiltonella) or reversed (Regiella) by an increase in mortality from other natural enemies and by the cost of carrying the symbiont. Symbionts therefore affect community structure by altering the relative success of different natural enemies. Our results show that protective symbionts are not necessarily advantageous to their hosts, and may even behave more like parasites than mutualists. Nevertheless, bacterial symbionts may play an important role in determining food web structure and dynamics.
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:Insects use endogenous mechanisms and infection with protective symbionts to thwart attacks from natural enemies. Defenses that target specific enemies, however, potentially mediate competition between rivals and thereby impact community composition. Following its introduction to North America to control pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum), the parasitoid Aphidius ervi competitively displaced other parasitoids, except for the native Praon pequodorum. The pea aphid exhibits tremendous clonal variation in resistance to A. ervi, primarily through infection with the heritable bacterial symbiont Hamiltonella defensa, although some symbiont-free aphid genotypes encode endogenous resistance. Interestingly, H. defensa strains and aphid genotypes that protect against A. ervi, provide no protection against the closely related, P. pequodorum. Given the specificity of aphid defenses, we hypothesized that aphid resistance traits may contribute to the continued persistence of P. pequodorum. We conducted multiparasitism assays to determine whether aphid resistance traits mediate internal competition between these two solitary parasitoid species, but found this was not the case; P. pequodorum was the successful internal competitor across lines varying in susceptibility to A. ervi. Next, to determine whether resistance traits influence competitive interactions resulting in the stable persistence of P. pequodorum, we established replicated cages varying in the proportion of resistant aphids and recorded successful parasitism for each wasp species over time. As expected, A. ervi outcompeted P. pequodorum in cages containing only susceptible aphids. However, P. pequodorum not only persisted, but was the superior competitor in populations containing any proportion (20-100%) of resistant aphids (20-100%). Smaller scale, better replicated competition cage studies corroborated this finding, and no-competition and behavioral assays provide insight into the processes mediating competition. Genetic variation, including that acquired via infection with protective symbionts, may provide a supply of hosts susceptible only to particular enemies, mediating competition with effects on community richness and stability.
Project description:Aphids commonly harbour facultative bacterial endosymbionts and may benefit from their presence through increased resistance to parasitoids. This has been demonstrated for Hamiltonella defensa and Serratia symbiotica, while a third common endosymbiont, Regiella insecticola, did not provide such protection. However, this symbiont was recently detected in a highly resistant clone of the peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae, from Australia. To test if resistance was indeed conferred by the endosymbiont, we eliminated it from this clone with antibiotics, and we transferred it to two other clones of the same and one clone of a different aphid species (Aphis fabae). Exposing these lines to the parasitoid Aphidius colemani showed clearly that unlike other strains of this bacterium, this specific isolate of R. insecticola provides strong protection against parasitic wasps, suggesting that the ability to protect their host against natural enemies may evolve readily in multiple species of endosymbiotic bacteria.
Project description: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:Study of the mutualistic associations between facultative symbionts and aphids are developed only in a few models. That survey on the situation and distribution of the symbionts in a certain area is helpful to obtain clues for the acquisition and spread of them as well as their roles played in host evolution. To understand the infection patterns of seven facultative symbionts (Serratia symbiotica, Hamiltonella defensa, Regiella insecticola, Rickettsia, Spiroplasma, Wolbachia, and Arsenophonus) in Rhopalosiphum padi (Linnaeus) and Rhopalosiphum maidis (Fitch), we collected 882 R. maidis samples (37 geographical populations) from China and 585 R. padi samples (32 geographical populations) from China and Europe. Results showed that both species were widely infected with various symbionts and totally 50.8% of R. maidis and 50.1% of R. padi were multi-infected with targeted symbionts. However, very few Rhopalosiphum aphids were infected with S. symbiotica. The infection frequencies of some symbionts were related to the latitude of collecting sites, suggesting the importance of environmental factors in shaping the geographic distribution of facultative symbionts. Also, R. maidis and R. padi were infected with different H. defensa strains based on phylogenetic analysis which may be determined by host ×symbiont genotype interactions. According to our results, the ubiquitous symbionts may play important roles in the evolution of their host aphid and their impacts on adaptation of R. padi and R. maidis were discussed as well.
Project description:Symbiosis is prevalent throughout the tree of life and has had a significant impact on the ecology and evolution of many bacteria and eukaryotes. The benevolence of symbiotic interactions often varies with the environment, and such variation is expected to play an important role in shaping the prevalence and distributions of symbiosis throughout nature. In this study, we examine how the fitness of aphids is influenced by infection with one of three maternally transmitted bacteria, 'Candidatus Serratia symbiotica', 'Candidatus Hamiltonella defensa' and 'Candidatus Regiella insecticola', addressing how symbiont benevolence varies with temperature. We find that the effects of these 'secondary' symbionts on Acyrthosiphon pisum depend on when and whether aphids are exposed to a brief period of heat shock. We also demonstrate that symbionts--even closely related isolates--vary in their effects on hosts. Our results indicate similar effects of S. symbiotica and H. defensa in conferring tolerance to high temperatures and a liability of R. insecticola under these same conditions. These findings reveal a role for heritable symbionts in the adaptation of aphids to their abiotic environments and add to an expanding body of knowledge on the adaptive significance of symbiosis.