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Horizontal transfer of genes and genomes in an endosymbiotic system: Investigation of the movement of intracellular bacteria and related gene transfer Open Access


Other title
bacteriophage WO
Horizontal transfer
comparative genomics
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Batista, Philip D
Supervisor and department
Harris, Harriet (Biological Sciences)
Keddie, B. Andrew (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Hall, Jocelyn (Biological Sciences)
Severini, Alberto (Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases)
Evenden, Maya (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences
Physiology, Cell & Developmental Biology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The genus Wolbachia is comprised of intracellular gram negative bacteria capable of infecting a wide range of insect hosts. In arthropods, Wolbachia are reproductive parasites that can cause cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis, feminization or male killing, each of which enhances the vertical transmission of the endosymbiont in a host population. Horizontal transmission of Wolbachia between different species can be shown by incongruence of phylogenies of Wolbachia and their hosts along with Wolbachia’s widespread distribution. Wolbachia is a model for understanding the horizontal transfer of genes and genomes and the role of mobile genetic elements, including bacteriophages in host-symbiont interactions. My study provides the groundwork for understanding multitrophic interactions among insects, bacteria, and viruses in Wolbachia-host systems. This study examines horizontal transfer of Wolbachia and associated WO bacteriophages in two host-parasitoid systems based on agronomically important pests Plutella xylostella and Ceutorhynchus obstrictus. Phylogenetic analysis shows that Wolbachia and WO have been horizontally transferred between P. xylostella and the parasitoid Diadegma insulare but not between C. obstrictus and its parasitoid T. lucidus. Results from this study suggest that horizontal transfer of Wolbachia requires longer-term host/parasitoid associations. Comparative genomic methods were used to identify the core genome of the replicating bacteriophage WO. This study shows that all replicating WO bacteriophages include modules for DNA packaging and head assembly and tail morphogenesis. Remnant prophages lack the tail morphogenesis module and many genes associated with DNA packaging. One bacteriophage gene implicated in the establishment and maintenance of Wolbachia symbiosis is a DNA adenine methyltransferase (MTase) containing a ParB-like nuclease domain. Adenine methylation of DNA in bacteria has numerous functions including gene regulation and host-pathogen interactions. This study reveals that this gene is widespread in prokaryotes and has undergone horizontal transfer between distantly related bacterial species, but not between Wolbachia strains. Examining the genomic position of this gene in each prokaryotic genome revealed a conserved association with bacteriophage DNA packaging genes.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Batista, PD. Keddie, BA; Dosdall, LM.; Harris, HL. 2010. Phylogenetic placement and evidence for horizontal transfer of Wolbachia in Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) and its parasitoid, Diadegma insulare (Hymenoptera: lchneumonidae). The Canadian Entomologist 142(1);57-64Biliske JA, Batista PD, Grant CL, Harris HL. 2011. The bacteriophage WORiC is the active phage element in wRi of Drosophila simulans and represents a conserved class of WO phages. BMC Microbiology, 11:251.Saridaki A, Sapountzis P, Harris HL, Batista PD, Biliske JA, Pavlikaki H, Oehler S, Savakis C, Braig HR, Bourtzis K. 2011. Wolbachia prophage DNA adenine methyltransferase genes in different Drosophila-Wolbachia associations. PLoS One, 6(5):e19708.

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