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PLoS One. 2013 May 28;8(5):e64432. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064432. Print 2013.

Adaptive selection on bracovirus genomes drives the specialization of Cotesia parasitoid wasps.

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Institut de Recherches sur la Biologie de l'Insecte, UMR 7261 CNRS, Université François-Rabelais, UFR Sciences et Techniques, Parc Grandmont, Tours, France.


The geographic mosaic of coevolution predicts parasite virulence should be locally adapted to the host community. Cotesia parasitoid wasps adapt to local lepidopteran species possibly through their symbiotic bracovirus. The virus, essential for the parasitism success, is at the heart of the complex coevolutionary relationship linking the wasps and their hosts. The large segmented genome contained in the virus particles encodes virulence genes involved in host immune and developmental suppression. Coevolutionary arms race should result in the positive selection of particular beneficial alleles. To understand the global role of bracoviruses in the local adaptation or specialization of parasitoid wasps to their hosts, we studied the molecular evolution of four bracoviruses associated with wasps of the genus Cotesia, including C congregata, C vestalis and new data and annotation on two ecologically differentiated populations of C sesamie, Kitale and Mombasa. Paired orthologs analyses revealed more genes under positive selection when comparing the two C sesamiae bracoviruses belonging to the same species, and more genes under strong evolutionary constraint between species. Furthermore branch-site evolutionary models showed that 17 genes, out of the 54 currently available shared by the four bracoviruses, harboured sites under positive selection including: the histone H4-like, a C-type lectin, two ep1-like, ep2, a viral ankyrin, CrV1, a ben-domain, a Serine-rich, and eight unknown genes. Lastly the phylogenetic analyses of the histone, ep2 and CrV1 genes in different African C sesamiae populations showed that each gene described differently the individual relationships. In particular we found recombination had happened between the ep2 and CrV1 genes, which are localized 37.5 kb apart on the wasp chromosomes. Involved in multidirectional coevolutionary interactions, C sesamiae wasps rely on different bracovirus mediated molecular pathways to overcome local host resistance.

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