The Wolbachia WalE1 effector alters Drosophila endocytosis

MaryAnn Martin,Sergio López-Madrigal,Irene L. G. Newton,  PLoS Pathogens,  20. 2024.

The most common intracellular bacterial infection is Wolbachia pipientis, a microbe that manipulates host reproduction and is used in control of insect vectors. Phenotypes induced by Wolbachia have been studied for decades and range from sperm-egg incompatibility to male killing. How Wolbachia alters host biology is less well understood. Previously, we characterized the first Wolbachia effector–WalE1, which encodes an alpha-synuclein domain at the N terminus. Purified WalE1 sediments with and bundles actin and when heterologously expressed in flies, increases Wolbachia titer in the developing oocyte. In this work, we first identify the native expression of WalE1 by Wolbachia infecting both fly cells and whole animals. WalE1 appears as aggregates in the host cell cytosol. We next show that WalE1 co-immunoprecipitates with the host protein Past1, although might not directly interact with it, and that WalE1 manipulates host endocytosis. Yeast expressing WalE1 show deficiency in uptake of FM4-64 dye, and flies harboring mutations in Past1 or overexpressing WalE1 are sensitive to AgNO3, a hallmark of endocytosis defects. We also show that flies expressing WalE1 suffer from endocytosis defects in larval nephrocytes. Finally, we also show that Past1 null flies harbor more Wolbachia overall and in late egg chambers. Our results identify interactions between Wolbachia and a host protein involved in endocytosis and point to yet another important host cell process impinged upon by Wolbachia’s WalE1 effector.

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