Transcriptomic and Proteomic Analyses of a Wolbachia-Free Filarial Parasite Provide Evidence of Trans-Kingdom Horizontal Gene Transfer

Samantha N. McNulty, Sahar Abubucker, Gabriel M. Simon, Makedonka Mitreva, Nathan P. McNulty, Kerstin Fischer, Kurt C. Curtis, Norbert W. Brattig, Gary J. Weil, Peter U. Fischer

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20 Scopus citations


Most filarial parasites in the subfamilies Onchocercinae and Dirofilariinae depend on Wolbachia endobacteria to successfully carry out their life cycle. Recently published data indicate that the few Wolbachia-free species in these subfamilies were infected in the distant past and have subsequently shed their endosymbionts. We used an integrated transcriptomic and proteomic analysis of Onchocerca flexuosa to explore the molecular mechanisms that allow worms of this species to survive without a bacterial partner. Roche/454 sequencing of the adult transcriptome produced 16,814 isogroup and 47,252 singleton sequences that are estimated to represent approximately 41% of the complete gene set. Sequences similar to 97 Wolbachia genes were identified from the transcriptome, some of which appear on the same transcripts as sequences similar to nematode genes. Computationally predicted peptides, including those with similarity to Wolbachia proteins, were classified at the domain and pathway levels in order to assess the metabolic capabilities of O. flexuosa and compare against the Wolbachia-dependent model filaria, Brugia malayi. Transcript data further facilitated a shotgun proteomic analysis of O. flexuosa adult worm lysate, resulting in the identification of 1,803 proteins. Three of the peptides detected by mass spectroscopy map to two ABC transport-related proteins from Wolbachia. Antibodies raised to one of the Wolbachia-like peptides labeled a single 38 kDa band on Western blots of O. flexuosa lysate and stained specific worm tissues by immunohistology. Future studies will be required to determine the exact functions of Wolbachia-like peptides and proteins in O. flexuosa and to assess their roles in worm biology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere45777
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 26 2012


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