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An endosymbiotic bacterium in a plant-parasitic nematode: Member of a new Wolbachia supergroup

Haegeman, Annelies, Vanholme, Bartel, Jacob, Joachim, Vandekerckhove, Tom T.M., Claeys, Myriam, Borgonie, Gaetan, Gheysen, Godelieve
International journal for parasitology 2009 v.39 no.9 pp. 1045-1054
Radopholus similis, plant parasitic nematodes, endosymbionts, bacteria, Wolbachia, expressed sequence tags, genes, molecular cloning, sequence analysis, sequence homology, phylogeny, taxonomy
Wolbachia is an endosymbiotic bacterium widely present in arthropods and animal-parasitic nematodes. Despite previous efforts, it has never been identified in plant-parasitic nematodes. Random sequencing of genes expressed by the burrowing nematode Radopholus similis resulted in several sequences with similarity to Wolbachia genes. The presence of a Wolbachia-like endosymbiont in this plant-parasitic nematode was investigated using both morphological and molecular approaches. Transmission electron microscopy, fluorescent immunolocalisation and staining with DAPI confirmed the presence of the endosymbiont within the reproductive tract of female adults. 16S rDNA, ftsZ and groEL gene sequences showed that the endosymbiont of R. similis is distantly related to the known Wolbachia supergroups. Finally, based on our initial success in finding sequences of this endosymbiont by screening an expressed sequence tag (EST) dataset, all nematode ESTs were mined for Wolbachia-like sequences. Although the retained sequences belonged to six different nematode species, R. similis was the only plant-parasitic nematode with traces of Wolbachia. Based on our phylogenetic study and the current literature we designate the endosymbiont of R. similis to a new supergroup (supergroup I) rather than considering it as a new species. Although its role remains unknown, the endosymbiont was found in all individuals tested, pointing towards an essential function of the bacteria.