This post deals with a recent paper about Wolbachia in plant parasitic nematodes, and with Wolbachia phylogeny in general.
Almost 30 genomes of the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia have been sequenced so far, and this trend is likely to continue. Wolbachia are found in a large proportion of arthropods (insects, arachnids, and allies) and in filarial nematodes. Very generally speaking, Wolbachia in arthropods are opportunistic, with varied fitness effects for their hosts, and may switch hosts horizontally. In contrast, Wolbachia in filarials are highly specialized and absolutely required for their hosts (the mechanisms underlying this co-dependence are not 100% clear yet).
The differences in lifestyle of Wolbachia from arthropods and filarials is also reflected in their genomic architecture. For example, arthropod Wolbachia typically harbour many mobile genetic elements (e.g, insertion sequences, prophages & other phage-derived elements) that are almost always missing in the very streamlined and reduced filarial Wolbachia genomes.
Now, for the first time, there is genomic data from more 'exotic' Wolbachia strains: Brown et al. have sequenced the genome of Wolbachia from a plant-parasitic nematode (wPpe from Pratylenchus penetrans), and, in a recent publication (Brown et al. 2016) compare it to the rest of the genomes of Wolbachia from arthropods and filarial nematodes. They also include in their analysis a strain from the banana aphid (wPni from Pentalonia nigronervosa) and a springtail (wFol from Folsomia candida). These strains were sequenced previously (De Clerck et al. 2015 & Gerth et al. 2014, respectively), but never investigated in a comparative framework before. All three strains are genetically very divergent from typical arthropod and filarial Wolbachia, so it was really cool to see this analysis published.
Here, I want to briefly summarize the main findings of Brown et al.' s study and comment on what phylogenomic datasets and gene repertoires can tell us about evolutionary relationships within Wolbachia.
This is the website of Michael Gerth. I am a biologist with an interest in insects and the microbes within them. Click here to learn more.