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.