2020 Winner: Identifying and validating Wolbachia-to-arthropod HGT events

Project Information
Identifying and validating Wolbachia-to-arthropod HGT events
Corbett-Detig Lab
Wolbachia are gram-negative bacteria that frequently infect arthropods and form endosymbiotic relationships with the host (Werren 1997). Due to the close proximity of Wolbachia endosymbiont genomes and arthropod host genomes, horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has been shown to occur from Wolbachia to the host in several organisms, including mosquitoes, flies, aphids, and wasps (Hotopp 2011). However, studies documenting the presence of Wolbachia HGT in arthropod genomes are limited to a few species that have shown extensive transfer. We developed a high-throughput bioinformatics workflow that can identify and validate putative HGT events using publicly available sequence data. We found 1673 putative horizontally transferred coding sequences across 16 species, most of which do not have documented Wolbachia-to-arthropod HGT events. We also developed a method to validate these Wolbachia-to-host insertions using available whole genome sequencing data. We find that Wolbachia-to-arthropod HGT events may be more common than current literature, or lack thereof, seems to suggest.
  • Serafina Maria Nieves (Eight)