Effects of Wolbachia on Transposable Element Expression Vary Between Drosophila melanogaster Host Genotypes

A. T. Eugénio, M. S. P. Marialva and P. Beldade,  Genome Biology Evolution,  15. 2023.

Transposable elements (TEs) are repetitive DNA sequences capable of changing position in host genomes, thereby causing mutations. TE insertions typically have deleterious effects but they can also be beneficial. Increasing evidence of the contribution of TEs to adaptive evolution further raises interest in understanding what factors impact TE activity. Based on previous studies associating the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia with changes in the abundance of piRNAs, a mechanism for TE repression, and to transposition of specific TEs, we hypothesized that Wolbachia infection would interfere with TE activity. We tested this hypothesis by studying the expression of 14 TEs in a panel of 25 Drosophila melanogaster host genotypes, naturally infected with Wolbachia and annotated for TE insertions. The host genotypes differed significantly in Wolbachia titers inside individual flies, with broad-sense heritability around 20%, and in the number of TE insertions, which depended greatly on TE identity. By removing Wolbachia from the target host genotypes, we generated a panel of 25 pairs of Wolbachia-positive and Wolbachia-negative lines in which we quantified transcription levels for our target TEs. We found variation in TE expression that was dependent on Wolbachia status, TE identity, and host genotype. Comparing between pairs of Wolbachia-positive and Wolbachia-negative flies, we found that Wolbachia removal affected TE expression in 21.1% of the TE-genotype combinations tested, with up to 2.3 times differences in the median level of transcript. Our data show that Wolbachia can impact TE activity in host genomes, underscoring the importance this endosymbiont can have in the generation of genetic novelty in hosts.

More related to this:

Transposable element insertion location bias and the dynamics of gene drive in mosquito populations

Population dynamics of transposable elements: Copy number regulation and species invasion requirements

Mosquito genomes are frequently invaded by transposable elements through horizontal transfer

Chromosome rearrangements for the control of insect pests

Transposable elements