Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 30;105(39):15088-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805666105. Epub 2008 Sep 24.

An insect symbiosis is influenced by bacterium-specific polymorphisms in outer-membrane protein A.

Author information

  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Section of Vector Biology, Yale University School of Medicine, LEPH 606, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Beneficial bacterial symbioses are ubiquitous in nature. However, the functional and molecular basis of host tolerance to resident symbiotic microbes, in contrast to resistance to closely related bacteria that are recognized as foreign, remain largely unknown. We used the tsetse fly (Glossina morsitans), which depends on symbiotic flora for fecundity and has limited exposure to foreign microbes, to investigate the tolerance phenomenon exhibited during symbiosis. We examined the potential role of bacterium-specific polymorphisms present in the major bacterial surface protein, outer-membrane protein A (OmpA), on host infection outcomes. Tsetse were successfully superinfected with their mutualistic facultative symbiont, Sodalis glossinidius, whereas infections with Escherichia coli K12 were lethal. In contrast, tsetse were resistant to an E. coli OmpA mutant strain, whereas recombinant Sodalis expressing E. coli OmpA became pathogenic. Profiling of tsetse immunity-related gene expression incriminated peptidoglycan recognition protein (pgrp)-lb as a determinant of the infection outcomes we observed. RNAi-induced knockdown of tsetse pgrp-lb significantly reduced host mortality after infection with otherwise lethal E. coli K12. Our results show that polymorphisms in the exposed loop domains of OmpA represent a microbial adaptation that mediates host tolerance of endogenous symbiotic bacteria.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center