Our results suggest that
, the intramitochondrial bacterium, does not invade mitochondria like predatory bacteria do but instead moves from mitochondrion to mitochondrion within the oocytes of
. A better understanding of the lifestyle of
will allow us to better define the role of this bacterial symbiont in the host physiology.
Midichloria mitochondrii” is an intramitochondrial bacterium of the order
associated with the sheep tick
. Bacteria phylogenetically related to “
. Midichloria mitochondrii” (midichloria and like organisms [MALOs]) have been shown to be associated with a wide range of hosts, from amoebae to a variety of animals, including humans. Despite numerous studies focused on specific members of the MALO group, no comprehensive phylogenetic and statistical analyses have so far been performed on the group as a whole. Here, we present a multidisciplinary investigation based on 16S rRNA gene sequences using both phylogenetic and statistical methods, thereby analyzing MALOs in the overall framework of the
. This study revealed that (i) MALOs form a monophyletic group; (ii) the MALO group is structured into distinct subgroups, verifying current genera as significant evolutionary units and identifying several subclades that could represent novel genera; (iii) the MALO group ranks at the level of described
families, leading to the proposal of the novel family “
Midichloriaceae.” In addition, based on the phylogenetic trees generated, we present an evolutionary scenario to interpret the distribution and life history transitions of these microorganisms associated with highly divergent eukaryotic hosts: we suggest that aquatic/environmental protista have acted as evolutionary reservoirs for members of this novel family, from which one or more lineages with the capacity of infecting metazoa have evolved.
An intracellular bacterium with the unique ability to enter mitochondria exists in the European vector of Lyme disease, the hard tick Ixodes ricinus. Previous phylogenetic analyses based on 16S rRNA gene sequences suggested that the bacterium formed a divergent lineage within the Rickettsiales (Alphaproteobacteria). Here, we present additional phylogenetic evidence, based on the gyrB gene sequence, that confirms the phylogenetic position of the bacterium. Based on these data, as well as electron microscopy (EM), in situ hybridization and other observations, we propose the name ‘Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii’ for this bacterium. The symbiont appears to be ubiquitous in females of I. ricinus across the tick's distribution, while lower prevalence is observed in males (44 %). Based on EM and in situ hybridization studies, the presence of ‘Candidatus M. mitochondrii’ in females appears to be restricted to ovarian cells. The bacterium was found to be localized both in the cytoplasm and in the intermembrane space of the mitochondria of ovarian cells. ‘Candidatus M. mitochondrii’ is the first bacterium to be identified that resides within animal mitochondria.