2021 Winner: Identifying and Investigating Wolbachia-to-Arthropod HGT Events

Project Information
Identifying and Investigating Wolbachia-to-Arthropod HGT Events
Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics
This study analyzes publicly available whole genome sequencing projects for evidence of horizontal
gene transfer from Wolbachia to arthropods. BLAST was used to query all arthropod proteins
against a database of Wolbachia proteins, resulting in a set of 1673 putatively transferred genes.
The depth of coverage, gene expression, number of introns, and number of eukaryotic genes on the
same contig was determined for each putative transfer. After filtering the putative transfers with
these criteria, I found 715 real transfers. Additionally, I found that these genes experience relaxed
selection after transferring to arthropod lineages. I found that Wolbachia-to-arthropod HGT events
may be more common than current literature seems to suggest, but are being lost from the genome
rapidly after insertion. These findings may be important as Wolbachia infections spread and as it
becomes an increasingly popular option for biological control.
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  • Serafina Maria Nieves (Eight)