The African Mocker Swallowtail, Papilio dardanus, is a textbook example in evolutionary genetics. Classical breeding experiments have shown that wing pattern variation in this polymorphic Batesian mimic is determined by the polyallelic H locus that controls a set of distinct mimetic phenotypes. Using bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) sequencing, recombination analyses and comparative genomics, we show that H co-segregates with an interval of less than 500 kb that is collinear with two other Lepidoptera genomes and contains 24 genes, including the transcription factor genes engrailed (en) and invected (inv). H is located in a region of conserved gene order, which argues against any role for genomic translocations in the evolution of a hypothesized multi-gene mimicry locus. Natural populations of P. dardanus show significant associations of specific morphs with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), centred on en. In addition, SNP variation in the H region reveals evidence of non-neutral molecular evolution in the en gene alone. We find evidence for a duplication potentially driving physical constraints on recombination in the lamborni morph. Absence of perfect linkage disequilibrium between different genes in the other morphs suggests that H is limited to nucleotide positions in the regulatory and coding regions of en. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that a single gene underlies wing pattern variation in P. dardanus.
Plant cell walls are the largest reservoir of organic carbon on earth. To breach and utilize this carbohydrate-rich protective barrier, microbes secrete plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) targeting pectin, cellulose and hemicelluloses. There is a growing body of evidence that genomes of some herbivorous insects also encode PCWDEs, raising questions about their evolutionary origins and functions. Among herbivorous beetles, pectin-degrading polygalacturonases (PGs) are found in the diverse superfamilies Chrysomeloidea (leaf beetles, long-horn beetles) and Curculionoidea (weevils). Here our aim was to test whether these arose from a common ancestor of beetles or via horizontal gene transfer (HGT), and whether PGs kept their ancestral function in degrading pectin or evolved novel functions. Transcriptome data derived from 10 beetle species were screened for PG-encoding sequences and used for phylogenetic comparisons with their bacterial, fungal and plant counterparts. These analyses revealed a large family of PG-encoding genes of Chrysomeloidea and Curculionoidea sharing a common ancestor, most similar to PG genes of ascomycete fungi. In addition, 50 PGs from beetle digestive systems were heterologously expressed and functionally characterized, showing a set of lineage-specific consecutively pectin-degrading enzymes, as well as conserved but enzymatically inactive PG proteins. The evidence indicates that a PG gene was horizontally transferred ?200 million years ago from an ascomycete fungus to a common ancestor of Chrysomeloidea and Curculionoidea. This has been followed by independent duplications in these two lineages, as well as independent replacement in two sublineages of Chrysomeloidea by two other subsequent HGTs. This origin, leading to subsequent functional diversification of the PG gene family within its new hosts, was a key event promoting the evolution of herbivory in these beetles.
The biosynthesis gene cluster for the production of xenocyloins was identified in the entomopathogenic bacterium Xenorhabdus bovienii SS-2004, and their biosynthesis was elucidated by heterologous expression and in vitro characterization of the enzymes. XclA is an S-selective ThDP-dependent acyloin-like condensation enzyme, and XclB and XclC are examples of the still-rare acylating ketosynthases that catalyze the acylation of the XclA-derived initial xenocyloins with acetyl-, propionyl-, or malonyl-CoA, thereby resulting in the formation of further xenocyloin derivatives. All xenocyloins were produced mainly by the more virulent primary variant of X. bovienii and showed activity against insect hemocytes thus contributing to the overall virulence of X. bovienii against insects.
Cellulose is an important nutritional resource for a number of insect herbivores. Digestion of cellulose and other polysaccharides in plant-based diets requires several types of enzymes including a number of glycoside hydrolase (GH) families. In a previous study, we showed that a single GH45 gene is present in the midgut tissue of the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). However, the presence of multiple enzymes was also suggested by the lack of a significant biological response when the expression of the gene was silenced by RNA interference. In order to clarify the repertoire of cellulose-degrading enzymes and related GH family proteins in D. v. virgifera, we performed next-generation sequencing and assembled transcriptomes from the tissue of three different developmental stages (eggs, neonates, and third instar larvae). Results of this study revealed the presence of seventy-eight genes that potentially encode GH enzymes belonging to eight families (GH45, GH48, GH28, GH16, GH31, GH27, GH5, and GH1). The numbers of GH45 and GH28 genes identified in D. v. virgifera are among the largest in insects where these genes have been identified. Three GH family genes (GH45, GH48, and GH28) are found almost exclusively in two coleopteran superfamilies (Chrysomeloidea and Curculionoidea) among insects, indicating the possibility of their acquisitions by horizontal gene transfer rather than simple vertical transmission from ancestral lineages of insects. Acquisition of GH genes by horizontal gene transfers and subsequent lineage-specific GH gene expansion appear to have played important roles for phytophagous beetles in specializing on particular groups of host plants and in the case of D. v. virgifera, its close association with maize.
Mimetic resemblance in unpalatable butterflies has been studied by evolutionary biologists for over a century, but has largely focused on the convergence in wing color patterns. In Heliconius numata, discrete color-pattern morphs closely resemble comimics in the distantly related genus Melinaea. We examine the possibility that the shape of the butterfly wing also shows adaptive convergence. First, simple measures of forewing dimensions were taken of individuals in a cross between H. numata morphs, and showed quantitative differences between two of the segregating morphs, f. elegans and f. silvana. Second, landmark-based geometric morphometric and elliptical Fourier outline analyses were used to more fully characterize these shape differences. Extension of these techniques to specimens from natural populations suggested that, although many of the coexisting morphs could not be discriminated by shape, the differences we identified between f. elegans and f. silvana hold in the wild. Interestingly, despite extensive overlap, the shape variation between these two morphs is paralleled in their respective Melinaea comimics. Our study therefore suggests that wing-shape variation is associated with mimetic resemblance, and raises the intriguing possibility that the supergene responsible for controlling the major switch in color pattern between morphs also contributes to wing shape differences in H. numata.
The past 60 years have seen a revolution in our understanding of the molecular genetics of insecticide resistance. While at first the field was split by arguments about the relative importance of mono- vs. polygenic resistance and field- vs. laboratory-based selection, the application of molecular cloning to insecticide targets and to the metabolic enzymes that degrade insecticides before they reach those targets has brought out an exponential growth in our understanding of the mutations involved. Molecular analysis has confirmed the relative importance of single major genes in target-site resistance and has also revealed some interesting surprises about the multi-gene families, such as cytochrome P450s, involved in metabolic resistance. Identification of the mutations involved in resistance has also led to parallel advances in our understanding of the enzymes and receptors involved, often with implications for the role of these receptors in humans. This Review seeks to provide an historical perspective on the impact of molecular biology on our understanding of resistance and to begin to look forward to the likely impact of rapid advances in both sequencing and genome-wide association analysis.
Six novel linear peptides, named "rhabdopeptides", have been identified in the entomopathogenic bacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila after the discovery of the corresponding rdp gene cluster by using a promoter trap strategy for the detection of insect-inducible genes. The structures of these rhabdopeptides were deduced from labeling experiments combined with detailed MS analysis. Detailed analysis of an rdp mutant revealed that these compounds participate in virulence towards insects and are produced upon bacterial infection of a suitable insect host. Furthermore, two additional rhabdopeptide derivatives produced by Xenorhabdus cabanillasii were isolated, these showed activity against insect hemocytes thereby confirming the virulence of this novel class of compounds.
BACKGROUND: Understanding how alternative phenotypes arise from the same genome is a major challenge in modern biology. Eusociality in insects requires the evolution of two alternative phenotypes - workers, who sacrifice personal reproduction, and queens, who realize that reproduction. Extensive work on honeybees and ants has revealed the molecular basis of derived queen and worker phenotypes in highly eusocial lineages, but we lack equivalent deep-level analyses of wasps and of primitively eusocial species, the latter of which can reveal how phenotypic decoupling first occurs in the early stages of eusocial evolution. RESULTS: We sequenced 20 Gbp of transcriptomes derived from brains of different behavioral castes of the primitively eusocial tropical paper wasp Polistes canadensis. Surprisingly, 75% of the 2,442 genes differentially expressed between phenotypes were novel, having no significant homology with described sequences. Moreover, 90% of these novel genes were significantly upregulated in workers relative to queens. Differential expression of novel genes in the early stages of sociality may be important in facilitating the evolution of worker behavioral complexity in eusocial evolution. We also found surprisingly low correlation in the identity and direction of expression of differentially expressed genes across similar phenotypes in different social lineages, supporting the idea that social evolution in different lineages requires substantial de novo rewiring of molecular pathways. CONCLUSIONS: These genomic resources for aculeate wasps and first transcriptome-wide insights into the origin of castes bring us closer to a more general understanding of eusocial evolution and how phenotypic diversity arises from the same genome.
Until recently the isolation of microsatellite markers from Lepidoptera has proved troublesome, expensive and time-consuming. Following on from a previous study of Ediths checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha, we developed novel microsatellite markers for the vulnerable marsh fritillary butterfly, E. aurinia. Our goal was to optimize the process in order to reduce both time and cost relative to prevailing techniques. This was accomplished by using a combination of previously developed techniques: in silico mining of a de novo assembled transcriptome sequence, and genotyping the microsatellites found there using an economic method of fluorescently labelling primers.
With moth declines reported across Europe, and parallel changes in the amount and spectra of street lighting, it is important to understand exactly how artificial lights affect moth populations. We therefore compared the relative attractiveness of shorter wavelength (SW) and longer wavelength (LW) lighting to macromoths. SW light attracted significantly more individuals and species of moth, either when used alone or in competition with LW lighting. We also found striking differences in the relative attractiveness of different wavelengths to different moth groups. SW lighting attracted significantly more Noctuidae than LW, whereas both wavelengths were equally attractive to Geometridae. Understanding the extent to which different groups of moth are attracted to different wavelengths of light will be useful in determining the impact of artificial light on moth populations.
The origin and evolution of supergenes have long fascinated evolutionary biologists. In the polymorphic butterfly Heliconius numata, a supergene controls the switch between multiple different forms, and results in near-perfect mimicry of model species. Here, we use a morphometric analysis to quantify the variation in wing pattern observed in two broods of H. numata with different alleles at the supergene locus, P. Further, we genotype the broods to associate the variation we capture with genetic differences. This allows us to begin mapping the quantitative trait loci that have minor effects on wing pattern. In addition to finding loci on novel chromosomes, our data, to our knowledge, suggest for the first time that ancestral colour-pattern loci, known to have major effects in closely related species, may contribute to the wing patterns displayed by H. numata, despite the large transfer of effects to the supergene.
Supergenes are tight clusters of loci that facilitate the co-segregation of adaptive variation, providing integrated control of complex adaptive phenotypes. Polymorphic supergenes, in which specific combinations of traits are maintained within a single population, were first described for pin and thrum floral types in Primula and Fagopyrum, but classic examples are also found in insect mimicry and snail morphology. Understanding the evolutionary mechanisms that generate these co-adapted gene sets, as well as the mode of limiting the production of unfit recombinant forms, remains a substantial challenge. Here we show that individual wing-pattern morphs in the polymorphic mimetic butterfly Heliconius numata are associated with different genomic rearrangements at the supergene locus P. These rearrangements tighten the genetic linkage between at least two colour-pattern loci that are known to recombine in closely related species, with complete suppression of recombination being observed in experimental crosses across a 400-kilobase interval containing at least 18 genes. In natural populations, notable patterns of linkage disequilibrium (LD) are observed across the entire P region. The resulting divergent haplotype clades and inversion breakpoints are found in complete association with wing-pattern morphs. Our results indicate that allelic combinations at known wing-patterning loci have become locked together in a polymorphic rearrangement at the P locus, forming a supergene that acts as a simple switch between complex adaptive phenotypes found in sympatry. These findings highlight how genomic rearrangements can have a central role in the coexistence of adaptive phenotypes involving several genes acting in concert, by locally limiting recombination and gene flow.
Numerous vertebrate and invertebrate genes encode serine proteinase homologues (SPHs) similar to members of the serine proteinase family, but lacking one or more residues of the catalytic triad. These SPH proteins are thought to play a role in immunity, but their precise functions are poorly understood. In this study, we show that SPH-3 (an insect non-clip domain-containing SPH) is of central importance in the immune response of a model lepidopteran, Manduca sexta. We examine M. sexta infection with a virulent, insect-specific, Gram-negative bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens. RNA interference suppression of bacteria-induced SPH-3 synthesis severely compromises the insects ability to defend itself against infection by preventing the transcription of multiple antimicrobial effector genes, but, surprisingly, not the transcription of immune recognition genes. Upregulation of the gene encoding prophenoloxidase and the activity of the phenoloxidase enzyme are among the antimicrobial responses that are severely attenuated on SPH-3 knockdown. These findings suggest the existence of two largely independent signaling pathways controlling immune recognition by the fat body, one governing effector gene transcription, and the other regulating genes encoding pattern recognition proteins.
The whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum is an economically important crop pest in temperate regions that has developed resistance to most classes of insecticides. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying resistance have not been characterised and, to date, progress has been hampered by a lack of nucleotide sequence data for this species. Here, we use pyrosequencing on the Roche 454-FLX platform to produce a substantial and annotated EST dataset. This unigene set will form a critical reference point for quantitation of over-expressed messages via digital transcriptomics.
Burkholderia pseudomallei is an important human pathogen whose infection biology is still poorly understood. The bacterium is endemic to tropical regions, including South East Asia and Northern Australia, where it causes melioidosis, a serious disease associated with both high mortality and antibiotic resistance. B. pseudomallei is a Gram-negative facultative intracellular pathogen that is able to replicate in macrophages. However despite the critical nature of its interaction with macrophages, few anti-macrophage factors have been characterized to date. Here we perform a genome-wide gain of function screen of B. pseudomallei strain K96243 to identify loci encoding factors with anti-macrophage activity. We identify a total of 113 such loci scattered across both chromosomes, with positive gene clusters encoding transporters and secretion systems, enzymes/toxins, secondary metabolite, biofilm, adhesion and signal response related factors. Further phenotypic analysis of four of these regions shows that the encoded factors cause striking cellular phenotypes relevant to infection biology, including apoptosis, formation of actin tails and multi-nucleation within treated macrophages. The detailed analysis of the remaining host of loci will facilitate genetic dissection of the interaction of this important pathogen with host macrophages and thus further elucidate this critical part of its infection cycle.
Many bacteria persist within phagocytes, deploying complex sets of tightly regulated virulence factors to manipulate and survive within host cells. So far, no single factor has been identified that is sufficient to allow intracellular persistence of an otherwise non-pathogenic bacterium. Here we report that the two-component KdpD/KdpE sensor kinase/response regulator of the insect and human pathogen Photorhabdus asymbiotica (Pa) is sufficient to allow a harmless laboratory strain of E. coli to resist phagocytic killing and persist within insect hemocytes, ultimately killing the insect. Screening of a cosmid library of Pa in E. coli by injection into the moth Manduca sexta, previously identified three overlapping clones which caused the insect to cease feeding and subsequently die. Transposon mutagenesis revealed a cosmid encoded kdp high affinity potassium pump regulon was responsible for this phenotype. Gentamycin protection assays and confocal microscopy revealed the cosmid clones were persisting inside insect hemocytes far longer than control bacteria. Cloning and expression of PakdpD/kdpE alone into E. coli recapitulated the phenotype. Bioassay results and transcriptional analysis of various E. coli kdp mutants harboring the Pa kdp genes confirmed that Pa KdpD/KdpE was able to induce the E. coli kdp pump structural genes in response to exposure to insect hemocytes but not blood plasma alone. The finding that Pa KdpD/KdpE can facilitate resistance of E. coli to phagocytic killing suggests a central role for potassium in this process, supporting previous work implicating potassium sensing in virulence of other bacteria and also in the normal process of protease killing of engulfed bacteria by neutrophils.
Plant cell walls are a heterogeneous mixture of polysaccharides and proteins that require a range of different enzymes to degrade them. Plant cell walls are also the primary source of cellulose, the most abundant and useful biopolymer on the planet. Plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) are therefore important in a wide range of biotechnological processes from the production of biofuels and food to waste processing. However, despite the fact that the last common ancestor of all deuterostomes was inferred to be able to digest, or even synthesize, cellulose using endogenous genes, all model insects whose complete genomes have been sequenced lack genes encoding such enzymes. To establish if the apparent "disappearance" of PCWDEs from insects is simply a sampling problem, we used 454 mediated pyrosequencing to scan the gut transcriptomes of beetles that feed on a variety of plant derived diets. By sequencing the transcriptome of five beetles, and surveying publicly available ESTs, we describe 167 new beetle PCWDEs belonging to eight different enzyme families. This survey proves that these enzymes are not only present in non-model insects but that the multigene families that encode them are apparently undergoing complex birth-death dynamics. This reinforces the observation that insects themselves, and not just their microbial symbionts, are a rich source of PCWDEs. Further it emphasises that the apparent absence of genes encoding PCWDEs from model organisms is indeed simply a sampling artefact. Given the huge diversity of beetles alive today, and the diversity of their lifestyles and diets, we predict that beetle guts will emerge as an important new source of enzymes for use in biotechnology.
Pierisin-like proteins comprise a growing family of ADP-ribosyltransferases expressed in various species of white butterflies. The prototype pierisin-1 from the cabbage butterfly, Pieris rapae, was identified as a potent apoptosis-inducing agent, acting on various types of carcinoma cell lines by mono-ADP-ribosylation of DNA. The characterization of pierisin-like proteins is hampered by its potent toxicity, which prevents its expression as a recombinant protein in Escherichia coli. Here we characterized a new member of the pierisin protein family named pierisin-1b, which was cloned from P. rapae. Pierisin-1b consists of 849 amino acids residues and shares 63%-91% identity with already described pierisins. For expression of pierisin-1b a novel in vitro translation system was utilized. Obtained protein exhibits specific ADP-ribosyltransferase activity on deoxyguanosine residues of DNA leading to induction of apoptosis and cell death.
Gene silencing through RNA interference (RNAi) has revolutionized the study of gene function, particularly in non-model insects. However, in Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) RNAi has many times proven to be difficult to achieve. Most of the negative results have been anecdotal and the positive experiments have not been collected in such a way that they are possible to analyze. In this review, we have collected detailed data from more than 150 experiments including all to date published and many unpublished experiments. Despite a large variation in the data, trends that are found are that RNAi is particularly successful in the family Saturniidae and in genes involved in immunity. On the contrary, gene expression in epidermal tissues seems to be most difficult to silence. In addition, gene silencing by feeding dsRNA requires high concentrations for success. Possible causes for the variability of success in RNAi experiments in Lepidoptera are discussed. The review also points to a need to further investigate the mechanism of RNAi in lepidopteran insects and its possible connection to the innate immune response. Our general understanding of RNAi in Lepidoptera will be further aided in the future as our public database at http://insectacentral.org/RNAi will continue to gather information on RNAi experiments.
Overexpression of the cytochrome P450 gene Cyp6g1 confers resistance against DDT and a broad range of other insecticides in Drosophila melanogaster Meig. In the absence of crystal structures of CYP6G1 or complexes with its substrates, structural studies rely on homology modelling and ligand docking to understand P450-substrate interactions.
Bacterial pathogens either hide from or modulate the hosts immune response to ensure their survival. Photorhabdus is a potent insect pathogenic bacterium that uses entomopathogenic nematodes as vectors in a system that represents a useful tool for probing the molecular basis of immunity. During the course of infection, Photorhabdus multiplies rapidly within the insect, producing a range of toxins that inhibit phagocytosis of the invading bacteria and eventually kill the insect host. Photorhabdus bacteria have recently been established as a tool for investigating immune recognition and defense mechanisms in model hosts such as Manduca and Drosophila. Such studies pave the way for investigations of gene interactions between pathogen virulence factors and host immune genes, which ultimately could lead to an understanding of how some Photorhabdus species have made the leap to becoming human pathogens.
Clinical isolates of Photorhabdus asymbiotica have been recovered from patients in both the United States of America and Australia, and the full sequence of P. asymbiotica ATCC43949 from the United States has been reported recently. In contrast to other bacteria in the genus that only infect insects, P. asymbiotica strains are able to infect both insects and humans. Using a combination of Solexa (Illumina) and 454 Life Sciences (Roche) sequence data in different assembly pipelines, we report on a draft genome sequence of a strain of P. asymbiotica recovered from a patient from Kingscliff, Australia. The best assembly yielded an N50 scaffold size of 288 627 base pairs (bp) with >88.6% of the predicted genome covered by scaffolds over 100 000 bp. One of the central differences found between this Australian isolate and the US isolate is the presence of an additional plasmid, pPAA3. This plasmid is similar to pCRY from Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of bubonic plague, and the presence of pPAA3 may account for the increased virulence of Australian isolates both against tissue culture cells and infected patients. The genome of the Kingscliff strain also contains several genomic differences from the US isolate, whose potential significance in virulence against both humans and insects is discussed.
Photorhabdus are Gram-negative nematode-symbiotic and insect-pathogenic bacteria. The species Photorhabdus asymbiotica is able to infect humans as well as insects. We investigated the secreted proteome of a clinical isolate of P. asymbiotica at different temperatures in order to identify proteins relevant to the infection of the two different hosts.
The mimetic wing patterns of Heliconius butterflies are an excellent example of both adaptive radiation and convergent evolution. Alleles at the HmYb and HmSb loci control the presence/absence of hindwing bar and hindwing margin phenotypes respectively between divergent races of Heliconius melpomene, and also between sister species. Here, we used fine-scale linkage mapping to identify and sequence a BAC tilepath across the HmYb/Sb loci. We also generated transcriptome sequence data for two wing pattern forms of H. melpomene that differed in HmYb/Sb alleles using 454 sequencing technology. Custom scripts were used to process the sequence traces and generate transcriptome assemblies. Genomic sequence for the HmYb/Sb candidate region was annotated both using the MAKER pipeline and manually using transcriptome sequence reads. In total, 28 genes were identified in the HmYb/Sb candidate region, six of which have alternative splice forms. None of these are orthologues of genes previously identified as being expressed in butterfly wing pattern development, implying previously undescribed molecular mechanisms of pattern determination on Heliconius wings. The use of next-generation sequencing has therefore facilitated DNA annotation of a poorly characterized genome, and generated hypotheses regarding the identity of wing pattern at the HmYb/Sb loci.
Photorhabdus spp., the only known bioluminescent terrestrial bacteria are well known for their symbiotic association with heterorhabditid nematodes. This association, along with their ability to kill insects, has aroused interest in the evolutionary relationships within this bacterial group. Currently, three species are recognized within the genus Photorhabdus; P. temperata and P. luminescens, which are endosymbionts of Heterorhabditis spp., and P. asymbiotica, which has been isolated from human wounds and has recently been shown to also have a heterorhabditid nematode vector. To examine phylogenetic relationships among these taxa, we utilize total evidence Bayesian, likelihood, and parsimony based analyses of three genetic loci (16S rRNA gene, gyrB, and glnA) to construct a robust evolutionary hypothesis for the genus Photorhabdus. Here we use this phylogeny to evaluate existing specific and sub-specific taxonomic statements within the genus, identify previously undescribed Photorhabdus strains, test the utility of 16S rRNA gene, gyrB, and glnA in resolving various levels of relationships within the genus, and, finally, to investigate the evolution of bioluminescence. The genes examined produced the most robust phylogenetic hypothesis to date for the genus Photorhabdus, as indicated by strong bootstrap and posterior probability values at previously unresolved or poorly resolved nodes. We show that glnA is particularly useful in resolving specific and intra-specific relationships poorly resolved in other studies. We conclude that P. asymbiotica is the sister group to P. luminescens and that the new strains HIT and JUN should be given a new group designation within P. asymbiotica. Furthermore, we reveal a pattern of decline in bioluminescent intensity through the evolution of Photorhabdus, suggesting that this may be a trait acquired and maintained under previous ecological (aquatic) selection pressures that is now gradually being lost in its terrestrial environment.
Wing pattern evolution in Heliconius butterflies provides some of the most striking examples of adaptation by natural selection. The genes controlling pattern variation are classic examples of Mendelian loci of large effect, where allelic variation causes large and discrete phenotypic changes and is responsible for both convergent and highly divergent wing pattern evolution across the genus. We characterize nucleotide variation, genotype-by-phenotype associations, linkage disequilibrium (LD), and candidate gene expression patterns across two unlinked genomic intervals that control yellow and red wing pattern variation among mimetic forms of Heliconius erato. Despite very strong natural selection on color pattern, we see neither a strong reduction in genetic diversity nor evidence for extended LD across either patterning interval. This observation highlights the extent that recombination can erase the signature of selection in natural populations and is consistent with the hypothesis that either the adaptive radiation or the alleles controlling it are quite old. However, across both patterning intervals we identified SNPs clustered in several coding regions that were strongly associated with color pattern phenotype. Interestingly, coding regions with associated SNPs were widely separated, suggesting that color pattern alleles may be composed of multiple functional sites, conforming to previous descriptions of these loci as "supergenes." Examination of gene expression levels of genes flanking these regions in both H. erato and its co-mimic, H. melpomene, implicate a gene with high sequence similarity to a kinesin as playing a key role in modulating pattern and provides convincing evidence for parallel changes in gene regulation across co-mimetic lineages. The complex genetic architecture at these color pattern loci stands in marked contrast to the single casual mutations often identified in genetic studies of adaptation, but may be more indicative of the type of genetic changes responsible for much of the adaptive variation found in natural populations.
Wing patterning in Heliconius butterflies is a longstanding example of both Müllerian mimicry and phenotypic radiation under strong natural selection. The loci controlling such patterns are "hotspots" for adaptive evolution with great allelic diversity across different species in the genus. We characterise nucleotide variation, genotype-by-phenotype associations, linkage disequilibrium, and candidate gene expression at two loci and across multiple hybrid zones in Heliconius melpomene and relatives. Alleles at HmB control the presence or absence of the red forewing band, while alleles at HmYb control the yellow hindwing bar. Across HmYb two regions, separated by approximately 100 kb, show significant genotype-by-phenotype associations that are replicated across independent hybrid zones. In contrast, at HmB a single peak of association indicates the likely position of functional sites at three genes, encoding a kinesin, a G-protein coupled receptor, and an mRNA splicing factor. At both HmYb and HmB there is evidence for enhanced linkage disequilibrium (LD) between associated sites separated by up to 14 kb, suggesting that multiple sites are under selection. However, there was no evidence for reduced variation or deviations from neutrality that might indicate a recent selective sweep, consistent with these alleles being relatively old. Of the three genes showing an association with the HmB locus, the kinesin shows differences in wing disc expression between races that are replicated in the co-mimic, Heliconius erato, providing striking evidence for parallel changes in gene expression between Müllerian co-mimics. Wing patterning loci in Heliconius melpomene therefore show a haplotype structure maintained by selection, but no evidence for a recent selective sweep. The complex genetic pattern contrasts with the simple genetic basis of many adaptive traits studied previously, but may provide a better model for most adaptation in natural populations that has arisen over millions rather than tens of years.
The decreasing costs of capillary-based Sanger sequencing and next generation technologies, such as 454 pyrosequencing, have prompted an explosion of transcriptome projects in non-model species, where even shallow sequencing of transcriptomes can now be used to examine a range of research questions. This rapid growth in data has outstripped the ability of researchers working on non-model species to analyze and mine transcriptome data efficiently.
The Gram-negative bacterium Photorhabdus asymbiotica (Pa) has been recovered from human infections in both North America and Australia. Recently, Pa has been shown to have a nematode vector that can also infect insects, like its sister species the insect pathogen P. luminescens (Pl). To understand the relationship between pathogenicity to insects and humans in Photorhabdus we have sequenced the complete genome of Pa strain ATCC43949 from North America. This strain (formerly referred to as Xenorhabdus luminescens strain 2) was isolated in 1977 from the blood of an 80 year old female patient with endocarditis, in Maryland, USA. Here we compare the complete genome of Pa ATCC43949 with that of the previously sequenced insect pathogen P. luminescens strain TT01 which was isolated from its entomopathogenic nematode vector collected from soil in Trinidad and Tobago.
Drosophila embryos are well studied developmental microcosms that have been used extensively as models for early development and more recently wound repair. Here we extend this work by looking at embryos as model systems for following bacterial infection in real time. We examine the behaviour of injected pathogenic (Photorhabdus asymbiotica) and non-pathogenic (Escherichia coli) bacteria and their interaction with embryonic hemocytes using time-lapse confocal microscopy. We find that embryonic hemocytes both recognise and phagocytose injected wild type, non-pathogenic E. coli in a Dscam independent manner, proving that embryonic hemocytes are phagocytically competent. In contrast, injection of bacterial cells of the insect pathogen Photorhabdus leads to a rapid freezing phenotype of the hemocytes associated with significant rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton. This freezing phenotype can be phenocopied by either injection of the purified insecticidal toxin Makes Caterpillars Floppy 1 (Mcf1) or by recombinant E. coli expressing the mcf1 gene. Mcf1 mediated hemocyte freezing is shibire dependent, suggesting that endocytosis is required for Mcf1 toxicity and can be modulated by dominant negative or constitutively active Rac expression, suggesting early and unexpected effects of Mcf1 on the actin cytoskeleton. Together these data show how Drosophila embryos can be used to track bacterial infection in real time and how mutant analysis can be used to genetically dissect the effects of specific bacterial virulence factors.
We have evaluated Photorhabdus insect-related protein (Pir) from Photorhabdus asymbiotica against dengue vectors. PirAB shows larvicidal activity against both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus larvae but did not affect the Mesocyclops thermocyclopoides predator. PirAB expressed the strongest toxicity compared to PirA, PirB, or the mixture of PirA plus PirB. Whether the presence of an enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus sequence in PirAB, but not in PirA, PirB, or the mixture of PirA plus PirB, has any impact on biological control efficacy needs further investigation.
Insect blood (hemolymph) contains prophenoloxidase, a proenzyme that is activated to protective phenoloxidase when the insect is damaged or challenged with microorganisms. The Gram-negative bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens kills the lepidopteron insect Manduca sexta by using a variety of toxins. We screened P. luminescens and Photorhabdus asymbiotica cosmid libraries in an Escherichia coli host against previously activated M. sexta hemolymph phenoloxidase and identified three overlapping cosmid clones from P. luminescens and five from P. asymbiotica that suppressed the activity of the enzyme both in vitro and in vivo. Genome alignments of cosmid end sequences from both species confirmed that they contained orthologous loci. We examined one of the cosmids from P. luminescens in detail: it induced the formation of significantly fewer melanotic nodules, proliferated faster within the insect host and was significantly more virulent towards fifth-stage larvae than E. coli control bacteria. Insertional mutagenesis of this cosmid yielded 11 transposon mutants that were no longer inhibitory. All of these were insertions into a single 5.5-kb locus, which contained three ORFs and was homologous to the maltodextrin phosphorylase locus of E. coli. The implications of this novel inhibitory factor of insect phenoloxidase for Photorhabdus virulence are discussed.
The insect midgut is the primary target site for Bt-derived insecticides and Bt alternatives. However, despite extensive recent study, the precise role and nature of different Bt receptors remains a subject of considerable debate. This problem is fuelled by a lack of understanding of the genes expressed in the insect midgut and their physiological roles. The poplar leaf beetle, Chrysomela tremulae, is an important model for understanding the mode of action of, and resistance to, coleopteran-specific Bt toxins and currently shows the only known naturally occurring case of resistance to Cry3A toxins. Moreover it belongs to the same family as the corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera, an economically important beetle pest and target of hybrid corn expressing Cry3 toxins. Pyrosequencing is a fast and efficient way of defining the transcriptome of specific insect tissues such as the larval midgut. Here we use 454 based pyrosequencing to sample the larval midgut transcriptome of C. tremulae. We identify candidate genes of putative Bt receptors including transcripts encoding cadherin-like proteins, aminopeptidase N and alkaline phosphatase. We also describe a wealth of new transcripts predicting rapidly evolving gene families involved in plant tissue digestion, which have no homologs in the genome of the stored product pest the Red Flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum.
Seventeen depsipeptides, xentrivalpeptides A-Q (1-17), have been identified from an entomopathogenic Xenorhabdus sp. Whereas the structure of xentrivalpeptide A (1) was determined after its isolation by NMR spectroscopy and the advanced Marfeys method, the structures of all other derivatives were determined using a combination of stable isotope labeling and detailed MS analysis.
Two new and five known oxazoles were identified from two different Pseudomonas strains in addition to the known pyrones pseudopyronine A and B. Labeling experiments confirmed their structures and gave initial evidence for a novel biosynthesis pathway of these natural oxazoles. In order to confirm their structure, they were synthesized, which also allowed tests of their bioactivity. Additionally, the bioactivities of the synthesis intermediates were also investigated revealing interesting biological activities for several compounds despite their overall simple structures.
The Toxin Complex (TC) is a large multi-subunit toxin first characterized in the insect pathogens Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus, but now seen in a range of pathogens, including those of humans. These complexes comprise three protein subunits, A, B and C which in the Xenorhabdus toxin are found in a 4:1:1 stoichiometry. Some TCs have been demonstrated to exhibit oral toxicity to insects and have the potential to be developed as a pest control technology. The lack of recognisable signal sequences in the three large component proteins hinders an understanding of their mode of secretion. Nevertheless, we have shown the Photorhabdus luminescens (Pl) Tcd complex has been shown to associate with the bacterias surface, although some strains can also release it into the surrounding milieu. The large number of tc gene homologues in Pl make study of the export process difficult and as such we have developed and validated a heterologous Escherichia coli expression model to study the release of these important toxins. In addition to this model, we have used comparative genomics between a strain that releases high levels of Tcd into the supernatant and one that retains the toxin on its surface, to identify a protein responsible for enhancing secretion and release of these toxins. This protein is a putative lipase (Pdl1) which is regulated by a small tightly linked antagonist protein (Orf53). The identification of homologues of these in other bacteria, linked to other virulence factor operons, such as type VI secretion systems, suggests that these genes represent a general and widespread mechanism for enhancing toxin release in gram negative pathogens.
The synthesis of the recently characterized depsipeptide szentiamide (1), which is produced by the entomopathogenic bacterium Xenorhabdus szentirmaii, is described. Whereas no biological activity was previously identified for 1, the material derived from the efficient synthesis enabled additional bioactivity tests leading to the identification of a notable activity against insect cells and Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria.
The juvenile hormone mimic, pyriproxyfen is a suppressor of insect embryogenesis and development, and is effective at controlling pests such as the greenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Westwood) which are resistant to other chemical classes of insecticides. Although there are reports of insects evolving resistance to pyriproxyfen, the underlying resistance mechanism(s) are poorly understood.
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