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Little is known about how bacterial endosymbionts colonize host tissues. Because many insect endosymbionts are maternally transmitted, egg colonization is critical for endosymbiont success. Wolbachia bacteria, carried by approximately half of all insect species, provide an excellent model for characterizing endosymbiont infection dynamics. To date, technical limitations have precluded stepwise analysis of germline colonization by Wolbachia. It is not clear to what extent titer-altering effects are primarily mediated by growth rates of Wolbachia within cell lineages or migration of Wolbachia between cells.
The objective of this work is to inform mechanisms of germline colonization through use of optimized methodology. The approaches are framed in terms of nutritional impacts on Wolbachia. Yeast-rich diets in particular have been shown to suppress Wolbachia titer in the Drosophila melanogaster germline. To determine the extent of Wolbachia sensitivity to diet, we optimized 3-dimensional, multi-stage quantification of Wolbachia titer in maternal germline cells. Technical and statistical validation confirmed the identity of Wolbachia in vivo, the reproducibility of Wolbachia quantification and the statistical power to detect these effects. The data from adult feeding experiments demonstrated that germline Wolbachia titer is distinctly sensitive to yeast-rich host diets in late oogenesis. To investigate the physiological basis for these nutritional impacts, we optimized methodology for absolute Wolbachia quantification by real-time qPCR. We found that yeast-rich diets exerted no significant effect on bodywide Wolbachia titer, although ovarian titers were significantly reduced. This suggests that host diets affects Wolbachia distribution between the soma and late stage germline cells. Notably, relative qPCR methods distorted apparent wsp abundance, due to altered host DNA copy number in yeast-rich conditions. This highlights the importance of absolute quantification data for testing mechanistic hypotheses.
We demonstrate that absolute quantification of Wolbachia, using well-controlled cytological and qPCR-based methods, creates new opportunities to determine how bacterial abundance within the germline relates to bacterial distribution within the body. This methodology can be applied to further test germline infection dynamics in response to chemical treatments, genetic conditions, new host/endosymbiont combinations, or potentially adapted to analyze other cell and tissue types.
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Christensen, Steen; Camacho, Moises; Sharmin, Zinat; Zahadee Momtaz, A.J.M.; Perez, Laura; Navarro, Giselle; Triana, Jairo; Turelli, Michael; and Serbus, Laura Renee, "Quantitative methods for assessing local and bodywide contributions to Wolbachia titer in maternal germline cells of Drosophila" (2019). Biomolecular Sciences Institute: Faculty Publications. 31.
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