The Entangled Bank in Animals: Viral Transfer Between Bacterial Symbionts
Note 1: the recording starts on the second slide of the talk
Note 2: Related blog post at http://symbionticism.blogspot.com/2012/06/universality-and-complexity-of-viruses.html
In this talk at the International Symbiosis Society Meeting in Krakow, Poland, 2012, I discuss the transfer of genes between bacterial coinfections in animal hosts. Animal species are a conglomerate of their own cells, viruses, and bacterial symbiont cells. Indeed, the genes in the symbiont population can vastly outnumber the genes of the host, and yet we know little about the frequency at which these symbiont genes are swapped between coinfecting microbes or co-opted by the animal host. Here, I demonstrate that even in the most restrictive class of symbionts, the obligate intracellular bacteria, there is a surprising amount of genetic flux between coinfections. I discuss three primary findings. First, the most common obligate intracellular bacteria on the planet, Wolbachia pipientis, exemplifies extraordinary rates of bacteriophage transfer that are akin to the levels of genetic flux seen in free-living bacteria. Second, genome sequencing demonstrates that whole bacteriophage genomes can transfer apparently unrestrained between related and unrelated intracellular bacteria that coinfect the same host. Third, a new tool is presenteed that rapidly isolates genomes of microbes in a mixture of genomes from various organisms and environments. I conclude that animals are frequently ecological arenas for gene transfer between intracellular bacteria - thereby providing a means by which new genes and functions can be acquired in symbionts and inherited in their animal hosts.
Hat tip to Rob (@liveinsymbiosis) for recoding the video.