Featured Paper: Supergroup F Wolbachia in terrestrial isopods: Horizontal transmission from termites?

Supergroup F Wolbachia in terrestrial isopods: Horizontal transmission from termites?

Original Paper | Freely accessible until May 31, 2021

by Bianca Laís Zimmermann, Giovanna M. Cardoso, Didier Bouchon, Pedro H. Pezzi, Alexandre V. Palaoro & Paula B. Araujo

Evolutionary Ecology (2021)


Horizontal transmission between distantly related species has been used to explain how Wolbachia infect multiple species at astonishing rates despite the selection for resistance. Recently, a terrestrial isopod species was found to be infected by an unusual strain of supergroup F Wolbachia. However, only Wolbachia of supergroup B is typically found in isopods. One possibility is that these isopods acquired the infection because of their recurrent contact with termites—a group with strong evidence of infection by supergroup F Wolbachia. Thus, our goals were: (1) check if the infection was an isolated case in isopods, or if it revealed a broader pattern; (2) search for Wolbachia infection in the termites within Brazil; and (3) look for evidence consistent with horizontal transmission between isopods and termites. We collected Neotroponiscus terrestrial isopods and termites along the Brazilian coastal Atlantic forest. We sequenced and identified the Wolbachia strains found in these groups using coxA, dnaA, and fpbA genes. We constructed phylogenies for both bacteria and host taxa and tested for coevolution. We found the supergroup F Wolbachia in other species and populations of Neotroponiscus, and also in Nasutitermes and Procornitermes termites. The phylogenies showed that, despite the phylogenetic distance between isopods and termites, the Wolbachia strains clustered together. Furthermore, cophylogenetic analyses showed significant jumps of Wolbachia between terrestrial isopods and termites. Thus, our study suggests that the horizontal transmission of supergroup F Wolbachia between termites and terrestrial isopods is likely. Our study also helps understanding the success and worldwide distribution of this symbiont.