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Mol Ecol. 2017 Jul;26(14):3794-3807. doi: 10.1111/mec.14088. Epub 2017 Apr 4.

The within-host dynamics of infection in trans-generationally primed flour beetles.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA.
Department of Biology, University of Texas, Arlington, TX, 76010, USA.


Many taxa exhibit plastic immune responses initiated after primary microbial exposure that provide increased protection against disease-induced mortality and the fitness costs of infection. In several arthropod species, this protection can even be passed from parents to offspring through a phenomenon called trans-generational immune priming. Here, we first demonstrate that trans-generational priming is a repeatable phenomenon in flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) primed and infected with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). We then quantify the within-host dynamics of microbes and host physiological responses in infected offspring from primed and unprimed mothers by monitoring bacterial density and using mRNA-seq to profile host gene expression, respectively, over the acute infection period. We find that priming increases inducible resistance against Bt around a critical temporal juncture where host septicaemic trajectories, and consequently survival, may be determined in unprimed individuals. Our results identify a highly differentially expressed biomarker of priming, containing an EIF4-e domain, in uninfected individuals, as well as several other candidate genes. Moreover, the induction and decay dynamics of gene expression over time suggest a metabolic shift in primed individuals. The identified bacterial and gene expression dynamics are likely to influence patterns of bacterial fitness and disease transmission in natural populations.


Bacillus thuringiensis ; Tribolium castaneum ; EIF4-e; gene expression; metabolism; trained immunity; trans-generational immune priming

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