Macroevolutionary persistence of heritable endosymbionts: acquisition, retention and expression of adaptive phenotypes in Spiroplasma.Mol Ecol. 2015 07; 24(14):3752-65.ME
The phylogenetic incongruence between insects and their facultative maternally transmitted endosymbionts indicates that these infections are generally short-lived evolutionarily. Therefore, long-term persistence of many endosymbionts must depend on their ability to colonize and spread within new host species. At least 17 species of Drosophila are infected with endosymbiotic Spiroplasma that have various phenotypic effects. We transinfected five strains of Spiroplasma from three divergent clades into Drosophila neotestacea to test their capacity to spread in a novel host. A strain that causes male killing in Drosophila melanogaster (its native host) also does so in D. neotestacea, even though these host species diverged 40-60 mya. A strain native to D. neotestacea (designated sNeo) and the two other strains of the poulsonii clade of Spiroplasma confer resistance to wasp parasitism, suggesting that this trait may be ancestral within this clade of Spiroplasma. Conversely, no strain other than sNeo conferred resistance to the sterilizing effects of nematode parasitism, suggesting that nematode resistance is a recently derived condition. The apparent addition of nematode resistance to a Spiroplasma lineage that already confers resistance to wasp parasitism suggests endosymbionts can increase the repertoire of traits conducive to their spread. The capacity of an endosymbiont to undergo maternal transmission and express adaptive phenotypes in novel hosts, without requiring a period of host-symbiont co-evolution, enables the spread of such symbionts immediately after the colonization of a new host. This could be critical for the macroevolutionary persistence of facultative endosymbionts whose sojourn times within individual host species are relatively brief.