Symbiotic associations between bacteria and ciliate protists are rather common. In particular, several cases were reported involving bacteria of the alphaproteobacterial lineage Rickettsiales, but the diversity, features, and interactions in these associations are still poorly understood. In this work, we characterized a novel ciliate protist strain originating from Brazil and its associated Rickettsiales endosymbiont by means of live and ultrastructural observations, as well as molecular phylogeny. Though with few morphological peculiarities, the ciliate was found to be phylogenetically affiliated with Pseudokeronopsis erythrina, a euryhaline species, which is consistent with its origin from a lagoon with significant spatial and seasonal salinity variations. The bacterial symbiont was assigned to “Candidatus Trichorickettsia mobilis subsp. hyperinfectiva”, being the first documented case of a Rickettsiales associated with urostylid ciliates. It resided in the host cytoplasm and bore flagella, similarly to many, but not all, conspecifics in other host species. These findings highlight the ability of “Candidatus Trichorickettsia” to infect multiple distinct host species and underline the importance of further studies on this system, in particular on flagella and their regulation, from a functional and also an evolutionary perspective, considering the phylogenetic proximity with the well-studied and non-flagellated Rickettsia.
AbstractTaxonomy is the science of defining and naming groups of biological organisms based on shared characteristics and, more recently, on evolutionary relationships. With the birth of novel genomics/bioinformatics techniques and the increasing interest in microbiome studies, a further advance of taxonomic discipline appears not only possible but highly desirable. The present work proposes a new approach to modern taxonomy, consisting in the inclusion of novel descriptors in the organism characterization: (1) the presence of associated microorganisms (e.g.: symbionts, microbiome), (2) the mitochondrial genome of the host, (3) the symbiont genome. This approach aims to provide a deeper comprehension of the evolutionary/ecological dimensions of organisms since their very first description. Particularly interesting, are those complexes formed by the host plus associated microorganisms, that in the present study we refer to as “holobionts”. We illustrate this approach through the description of the ciliateEuplotes vanleeuwenhoekisp. nov. and its bacterial endosymbiont “CandidatusPinguicoccus supinus” gen. nov., sp. nov. The endosymbiont possesses an extremely reduced genome (~ 163 kbp); intriguingly, this suggests a high integration between host and symbiont.
Most of the microorganisms responsible for vector-borne diseases (VBD) have hematophagous arthropods as vector/reservoir. Recently, many new species of microorganisms phylogenetically related to agents of VBD were found in a variety of aquatic eukaryotic hosts; in particular, numerous new bacterial species related to the genus Rickettsia (Alphaproteobacteria, Rickettsiales) were discovered in protist ciliates and other unicellular eukaryotes. Although their pathogenicity for humans and terrestrial animals is not known, several indirect indications exist that these bacteria might act as etiological agents of possible VBD of aquatic organisms, with protists as vectors. In the present study, a novel strain of the Rickettsia-Like Organism (RLO) endosymbiont “Candidatus (Ca.) Trichorickettsia mobilis” was identified in the macronucleus of the ciliate Paramecium multimicronucleatum. We performed transfection experiments of this RLO to planarians (Dugesia japonica) per os. Indeed, the latter is a widely used model system for studying bacteria pathogenic to humans and other Metazoa. In transfection experiments, homogenized paramecia were added to food of antibiotic-treated planarians. Treated and non-treated (i.e. control) planarians were investigated at day 1, 3, and 7 after feeding for endosymbiont presence by means of PCR and ultrastructural analyses. Obtained results were fully concordant and suggest that this RLO endosymbiont can be transiently transferred from ciliates to metazoans, being detected up to day 7 in treated planarians’ enterocytes. Our findings might offer insights into the potential role of ciliates or other protists as putative vectors for diseases caused by Rickettsiales or other RLOs and occurring in fish farms or in the wild.
AbstractRickettsialesare a lineage of obligatorily intracellularAlphaproteobacteria, encompassing important human pathogens, manipulators of host reproduction, and mutualists. Here we report the discovery of a novelRickettsialesbacterium associated withParamecium, displaying a unique extracellular lifestyle, including the ability to replicate outside host cells. Genomic analyses show that the bacterium possesses a higher capability to synthesize amino acids, compared to all investigatedRickettsiales. Considering these observations, phylogenetic and phylogenomic reconstructions, and re-evaluating the different means of interaction ofRickettsialesbacteria with eukaryotic cells, we propose an alternative scenario for the evolution of intracellularity inRickettsiales. According to our reconstruction, theRickettsialesancestor would have been an extracellular and metabolically versatile bacterium, while obligate intracellularity and genome reduction would have evolved later in parallel and independently in different sub-lineages. The proposed new scenario could impact on the open debate on the lifestyle of the last common ancestor of mitochondria withinAlphaproteobacteria.