Metagenomics of culture isolates and insect tissue illuminate the evolution of <i>Wolbachia</i>, <i>Rickettsia</i> and <i>Bartonella</i> symbionts in <i>Ctenocephalides</i> spp. fleas.

Beliavskaia, Alexandra ORCID: 0000-0002-1194-5689, Tan, Kim-Kee, Sinha, Amit, Husin, Nurul Aini, Lim, Fang Shiang, Loong, Shih Keng, Bell-Sakyi, Lesley ORCID: 0000-0002-7305-0477, Carlow, Clotilde KS, AbuBakar, Sazaly, Darby, Alistair C ORCID: 0000-0002-3786-6209
et al (show 2 more authors) (2023) Metagenomics of culture isolates and insect tissue illuminate the evolution of <i>Wolbachia</i>, <i>Rickettsia</i> and <i>Bartonella</i> symbionts in <i>Ctenocephalides</i> spp. fleas. Microbial genomics, 9 (7).

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While fleas are often perceived simply as a biting nuisance and a cause of allergic dermatitis, they represent important disease vectors worldwide, especially for bacterial zoonoses such as plague (transmitted by rodent fleas) and some of the rickettsioses and bartonelloses. The cosmopolitan cat (Ctenocephalides felis) and dog (Ctenocephalides canis) fleas, as well as Ctenocephalides orientis (restricted to tropical and subtropical Asia), breed in human dwellings and are vectors of cat-scratch fever (caused by Bartonella spp.) and Rickettsia spp., including Rickettsia felis (agent of flea-borne spotted fever) and Rickettsia asembonensis , a suspected pathogen. These Rickettsia spp. are members of a phylogenetic clade known as the ‘transitional group’, which includes both human pathogens and arthropod-specific endosymbionts. The relatively depauperate flea microbiome can also contain other endosymbionts, including a diverse range of Wolbachia strains. Here, we present circularized genome assemblies for two C. orientis-derived pathogens ( Bartonella clarridgeiae and R. asembonensis ) from Malaysia, a novel Wolbachia strain (wCori), and the C. orientis mitochondrion; all were obtained by direct metagenomic sequencing of flea tissues. Moreover, we isolated two Wolbachia strains from Malaysian C. felis into tick cell culture and recovered circularized genome assemblies for both, one of which (wCfeF) is newly sequenced. We demonstrate that the three Wolbachia strains are representatives of different major clades (‘supergroups’), two of which appear to be flea-specific. These Wolbachia genomes exhibit unique combinations of features associated with reproductive parasitism or mutualism, including prophage WO, cytoplasmic incompatibility factors and the biotin operon of obligate intracellular microbes. The first circularized assembly for R. asembonensis includes a plasmid with a markedly different structure and gene content compared to the published plasmid; moreover, this novel plasmid was also detected in cat flea metagenomes from the USA. Analysis of loci under positive selection in the transitional group revealed genes involved in host–pathogen interactions that may facilitate host switching. Finally, the first B. clarridgeiae genome from Asia exhibited large-scale genome stability compared to isolates from other continents, except for SNPs in regions predicted to mediate interactions with the vertebrate host. These findings highlight the paucity of data on the genomic diversity of Ctenocephalides-associated bacteria and raise questions regarding how interactions between members of the flea microbiome might influence vector competence.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: fleas, symbionts, Wolbachia, Rickettsia, Bartonella, metagenomics
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2023 09:27
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2023 18:37
DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.001045
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