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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2019 Feb 1;95(2). doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiy235.

Bacteriome-associated Wolbachia of the parthenogenetic termite Cavitermes tuberosus.

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Evolutionary Biology & Ecology, Université libre de Bruxelles, Avenue F.D. Roosevelt 50, CP 160/12, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.
Environmental Research and Innovation Department, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, L-4422 Belvaux, Luxembourg.


Wolbachia has deeply shaped the ecology and evolution of many arthropods, and interactions between the two partners are a continuum ranging from parasitism to mutualism. Non-dispersing queens of the termite Cavitermes tuberosus are parthenogenetically produced through gamete duplication, a mode of ploidy restoration generally induced by Wolbachia. These queens display a bacteriome-like structure in the anterior part of the mesenteron. Our study explores the possibility of a nutritional mutualistic, rather than a parasitic, association between Wolbachia and C. tuberosus. We found a unique strain (wCtub), nested in the supergroup F, in 28 nests collected in French Guiana, the island of Trinidad and the state of Paraíba, Brazil (over 3500 km). wCtub infects individuals regardless of caste, sex or reproductive (sexual versus parthenogenetic) origin. qPCR assays reveal that Wolbachia densities are higher in the bacteriome-like structure and in the surrounding gut compared to other somatic tissues. High-throughput 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing reveals that Wolbachia represents over 97% of bacterial reads present in the bacteriome structure. BLAST analyses of 16S rRNA, bioA (a gene of the biosynthetic pathway of B vitamins) and five multilocus sequence typing genes indicated that wCtub shares 99% identity with wCle, an obligate nutritional mutualist of the bedbug Cimex lectularius.


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