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Multi-locus phylogenetics of the Midichloria endosymbionts reveals variable specificity of association with ticks

  • M. Buysse (a1) and O. Duron (a1)
Abstract

Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii is a maternally inherited bacterium of ticks with a unique intra-mitochondrial lifestyle. Here, we investigate on the evolutionary history of these associations and the degree of Midichloria–tick specificity. While previous surveys used the 16S rRNA gene as an exclusive molecular marker, we rather developed a multi-locus typing method based on four more variable housekeeping genes (groEL, rpoB, dnaK and ftsZ) and on one flagellum gene (fliC) present in Midichloria genomes. Using this method, multi-locus phylogenetic analyses revealed the structuring of a wide Midichloria genetic diversity into three distinct lineages associated with ticks. Overall, two distinct evolutionary strategies are obvious depending on lineage: two Midichloria lineages are generalists with infections acquired through horizontal transfers between distantly related tick species but one other Midichloria lineage rather show a high specificity degree to the Ixodes tick genus. This pattern suggests a capacity of certain Midichloria strains to maintain infections in only limited range of related tick species. These different infection strategies of Midichloria highlight an unexpected variability in their dependency to their tick hosts. We further conjecture that this pattern is also likely to indicate variability in their effects on ticks.

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Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: O. Duron, E-mail: olivier.duron@ird.fr
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