Dactylopius species, known as cochineal insects, are the source of the carminic acid dye used worldwide. The presence of two Wolbachia strains in Dactylopius coccus from Mexico was revealed by PCR amplification of wsp and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. A metagenome analysis recovered the genome sequences of Candidatus Wolbachia bourtzisii wDacA (supergroup A) and Candidatus Wolbachia pipientis wDacB (supergroup B). Genome read coverage, as well as 16S rRNA clone sequencing, revealed that wDacB was more abundant than wDacA. The strains shared similar predicted metabolic capabilities that are common to Wolbachia, including riboflavin, ubiquinone, and heme biosynthesis, but lacked other vitamin and cofactor biosynthesis as well as glycolysis, the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway, and sugar uptake systems. A complete tricarboxylic acid cycle and gluconeogenesis were predicted as well as limited amino acid biosynthesis. Uptake and catabolism of proline were evidenced in Dactylopius Wolbachia strains. Both strains possessed WO-like phage regions and type I and type IV secretion systems. Several efflux systems found suggested the existence of metal toxicity within their host. Besides already described putative virulence factors like ankyrin domain proteins, VlrC homologs, and patatin-like proteins, putative novel virulence factors related to those found in intracellular pathogens like Legionella and Mycobacterium are highlighted for the first time in Wolbachia. Candidate genes identified in other Wolbachia that are likely involved in cytoplasmic incompatibility were found in wDacB but not in wDacA.
The obligate-heritable endosymbionts of insects possess some of the smallest known bacterial genomes. This is likely due to loss of genomic material during symbiosis. The mode and rate of this erosion may change over evolutionary time: faster in newly formed associations and slower in long-established ones. The endosymbionts of human and anthropoid primate lice present a unique opportunity to study genome erosion in newly established (or young) symbionts. This is because we have a detailed phylogenetic history of these endosymbionts with divergence dates for closely related species. This allows for genome evolution to be studied in detail and rates of change to be estimated in a phylogenetic framework. Here, we sequenced the genome of the chimpanzee louse endosymbiont (Candidatus Riesia pediculischaeffi) and compared it with the closely related genome of the human body louse endosymbiont. From this comparison, we found evidence for recent genome erosion leading to gene loss in these endosymbionts. Although gene loss was detected, it was not significantly greater than in older endosymbionts from aphids and ants. Additionally, we searched for genes associated with B-vitamin synthesis in the two louse endosymbiont genomes because these endosymbionts are believed to synthesize essential B vitamins absent in the louse’s diet. All of the expected genes were present, except those involved in thiamin synthesis. We failed to find genes encoding for proteins involved in the biosynthesis of thiamin or any complete exogenous means of salvaging thiamin, suggesting there is an undescribed mechanism for the salvage of thiamin. Finally, genes encoding for the pantothenate de novo biosynthesis pathway were located on a plasmid in both taxa along with a heat shock protein. Movement of these genes onto a plasmid may be functionally and evolutionarily significant, potentially increasing production and guarding against the deleterious effects of mutation. These data add to a growing resource of obligate endosymbiont genomes and to our understanding of the rate and mode of genome erosion in obligate animal-associated bacteria. Ultimately sequencing additional louse p-endosymbiont genomes will provide a model system for studying genome evolution in obligate host associated bacteria.