Evolutionary Biology

Wolbachia load variation in Drosophila is more likely caused by drift than by host genetic factors

10.24072/pcjournal.50 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 1 (2021), article no. e38.

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Symbiosis is a continuum of long-term interactions ranging from mutualism to parasitism, according to the balance between costs and benefits for the protagonists. The density of endosymbionts is, in both cases, a key factor that determines both the transmission of symbionts and the host extended phenotype, and is thus tightly regulated within hosts. However, the evolutionary and molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial density regulation are currently poorly understood. In this context, the symbiosis between the fruit fly and its intracellular bacteria Wolbachia (wMelPop strain) is particularly interesting to study. Although vertically transmitted, the symbiont is pathogenic, and a positive correlation between virulence and wMelPop density is observed. In addition, the number of repeats of a bacterial genomic region -Octomom- is positively correlated with Wolbachia density, underlying a potential genetic mechanism that controls bacterial density. Interestingly, the number of repeats varies between host individuals, but most likely also within them. Such genetic heterogeneity within the host could promote conflicts between bacteria themselves and with the host, notably by increasing within-host competition between symbiont genotypes through a process analogous to the tragedy of the commons. To characterize the determinisms at play in the regulation of bacterial density, we first introgressed wMelPop in different genetic backgrounds of D. melanogaster, and found different density levels and Octomom copy numbers in each host lineage. To determine whether such variations reflect a host genetic determinism on density regulation through Octomom copy number selection, we replicated the introgressions and performed reciprocal crosses on the two Drosophila populations with the most extreme density levels. In both experiments, we detected an absence of directionality in the patterns of infection, associated with a strong instability of these patterns across generations. Given that bacterial density was highly correlated with Octomom copy numbers in all experiments, these results rather suggest a strong influence of drift and a random increase in the frequency of certain bacterial variants. We then discuss how drift, both on the symbiont population during transmission and on the host population, could limit the efficiency of selection in such a symbiotic system, and the consequences of drift on the regulation of density and composition of bacterial populations.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.50
Bénard, Alexis 1; Henri, Hélène 1; Noûs, Camille 2; Vavre, Fabrice 1; Kremer, Natacha 1

1 Université de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, VetAgroSup, Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, UMR 5558, Villeurbanne, France
2 Laboratoire Cogitamus, France
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     title = {<i>Wolbachia</i> load variation in {<i>Drosophila</i>} is more likely caused by drift than by host genetic factors},
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Bénard, Alexis; Henri, Hélène; Noûs, Camille; Vavre, Fabrice; Kremer, Natacha. Wolbachia load variation in Drosophila is more likely caused by drift than by host genetic factors. Peer Community Journal, Volume 1 (2021), article  no. e38. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.50. https://peercommunityjournal.org/articles/10.24072/pcjournal.50/

Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI : 10.24072/pci.evolbiol.100126

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