Florence Gutzwiller, Catarina R. Carmo, Danny E. Miller, Danny W. Rice, Irene L. Newton, Luis Teixeira, Casey M. Bergman
(Submitted on 21 May 2015)
Symbiotic interactions between microbes and their multicellular hosts have manifold impacts on molecular, cellular and organismal biology. To identify candidate bacterial genes involved in maintaining endosymbiotic associations with insect hosts, we analyzed genome-wide patterns of gene expression in the alpha-proteobacteria Wolbachia pipientis across the life cycle of Drosophila melanogaster using public data from the modENCODE project that was generated in a Wolbachia-infected version of the ISO1 reference strain. We find that the majority of Wolbachia genes are expressed at detectable levels in D. melanogaster across the entire life cycle, but that only 7.8% of 1195 Wolbachia genes exhibit robust stage- or sex-specific expression differences when studied in the “holo-organism” context. Wolbachia genes that are differentially expressed during development are typically up-regulated after D. melanogaster embryogenesis, and include many bacterial membrane, secretion system and ankyrin-repeat containing proteins. Sex-biased genes are often organised as small operons of uncharacterised genes and are mainly up-regulated in adult males D. melanogaster in an age-dependent manner suggesting a potential role in cytoplasmic incompatibility. Our results indicate that large changes in Wolbachia gene expression across the Drosophila life-cycle are relatively rare when assayed across all host tissues, but that candidate genes to understand host-microbe interaction in facultative endosymbionts can be successfully identified using holo-organism expression profiling. Our work also shows that mining public gene expression data in D. melanogaster provides a rich set of resources to probe the functional basis of the Wolbachia-Drosophila symbiosis and annotate the transcriptional outputs of the Wolbachia genome.