Ovarian Transcriptional Response to Wolbachia Infection in D. melanogaster in the Context of Between-Genotype Variation in Gene Expression

S. I. Frantz, C. M. Small, W. A. Cresko and N. D. Singh,  G3-Genes Genomes Genetics,  2023.

Wolbachia is a maternally-transmitted endosymbiotic bacteria that infects a wide variety of arthropod and nematode hosts. The effects of Wolbachia on host biology are far-reaching and include changes in host gene expression. However, previous work on the host transcriptional response has generally been investigated in the context of a single host genotype. Thus, the relative effect of Wolbachia infection versus host genotype on gene expression is unknown. Here we explicitly test the relative roles of Wolbachia infection and host genotype on host gene expression by comparing the ovarian transcriptomes of four strains of D. melanogaster infected and uninfected with Wolbachia. Our data suggest that infection explains a small amount of transcriptional variation, particularly in comparison to variation in gene expression among strains. However, infection specifically affects genes related to cell cycle, translation, and metabolism. We also find enrichment of cell division and recombination processes among genes with infection-associated differential expression. Broadly, the transcriptomic changes identified in this study provide novel understanding of the relative magnitude of the effect of Wolbachia infection on gene expression in the context of host genetic variation, and also point to genes that are consistently differentially expressed in response to infection among multiple genotypes.

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