Leocadia V. Paliulis, Associate Professor of Biology
In many arthropods, maternally inherited endosymbiotic bacteria can increase infection frequency by manipulating host reproduction. Multiple infections of different bacteria in a single host population are common, yet few studies have documented concurrent endosymbiont phenotypes or explored their potential interactions. We hypothesized that spiders might be a particularly useful taxon for investigating endosymbiont interactions, because they are host to a plethora of endosymbiotic bacteria and frequently exhibit multiple infections. We established two matrilines from the same population of the linyphiid spider Mermessus fradeorum and then used antibiotic curing and controlled mating assays to demonstrate that each matriline was subject to a distinct endosymbiotic reproductive manipulation. One matriline was co-infected with Rickettsia and Wolbachia and produced offspring with a radical female bias. Antibiotic treatment eliminated both endosymbionts and restored an even sex ratio to subsequent generations. Chromosomal and fecundity observations suggest a feminization mechanism. In the other matriline, a separate factorial mating assay of cured and infected spiders demonstrated strong cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) induced by a different strain of Wolbachia. However, males with this Wolbachia induced only mild CI when mated with the Rickettsia-Wolbachia females. In a subsequent survey of a field population of M. fradeorum, we detected these same three endosymbionts infecting 55% of the spiders in almost all possible combinations, with nearly half of the infected spiders exhibiting multiple infection. Our results suggest that a dynamic network of endosymbionts may interact both within multiply infected hosts and within a population subject to multiple strong reproductive manipulations.
Paliulis, Leocadia V.; Curry, M.M.; Welch, K.D.; Harwood, J.D.; and White, J.A. “Multiple Endosymbiont Infections and Reproductive Manipulations in a Linyphiid Spider Population.” Heredity 115, no. 2 (2015) : 146-152.