The Microbial Associates and Putative Venoms of Seed Chalcid Wasps (Hymenoptera: Torymidae: Megastigmus)




Paulson, Amber Rose

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Conifer seed-infesting chalcids of the genus Megastigmus (Hymenoptera: Torymidae) are important forest pests. At least one species, M. spermotrophus Wachtl, has been shown to be able to manipulate the seed development of its host, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in remarkable ways, such as redirecting unfertilized ovules that would normally abort. The mechanism of host manipulation is currently unknown. Microbial associates and venoms are two potential mechanisms of host manipulation. Microbial associates are emerging as an important player in insect-plant interactions. There is also evidence that venoms may be important in gall-induction by phytophagous wasps. PCR and 16S rRNA pyrosequencing was used to characterize the microbial associates of Megastigmus and transcriptomic sequencing was used to identify putative venoms that were highly expressed in female M. spermotrophus. The common inherited bacterial symbionts Wolbachia and Rickettsia were found to be prevalent among several populations of Megastigmus spp. screened using a targeted PCR approach. A member of the Betaproteobacteria, Ralstonia, was identified as the dominant microbial associate of M. spermotrophus using 16S rRNA pyrosequencing. The transcriptome of M. spermotrophus was assembled de novo and three putative venoms were identified as highly expressed in females. One of these putative venoms, Aspartylglucosaminidase, (AGA) appears to have originated through gene duplication within the Hymenoptera and has been identified as a major venom component of two divergent parasitoid wasps. AGA was identified as a promising candidate for further investigation as a potential mechanism of early host manipulation by M. spermotrophus.



venom, transcriptome, microbial associates, next generation sequencing, Megastigmus spermotrophus, Douglas-fir seed chalcid, Ralstonia, Wolbachia, Rickettsia, Microsporidia, endosymbiont