Life in the nucleus, the genomic basis of energy exploitation by intranuclear microsporidia
Wiredu Boakye, Dominic
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Part of this thesis is currently being reviewed by editors of the Journal of Environmental Microbiology for publishing.
The Microsporidia are obligate intracellular parasites that have jettisoned oxidation phosphorylative capabilities during their early evolutionary history and so rely on ATP import from their host and glycolysis for their energy needs. Some species form tight associations with the host’s mitochondria and this is thought to facilitate ATP sequestration by the developing intracellular microsporidian. The human parasite, Enterocytozoon bieneusi has however lost glycolytic capabilities and may rely entirely on ATP import from its host for energy. E. bieneusi belongs to the Enterocytozoonidae microsporidian family and recent rDNA-based phylogenetic studies have suggested it has close evolutionary ties with Enterospora canceri, a crab-infecting intranuclear parasite. Such a close evolutionary relationship implied that glycolysis might also be absent in the intranuclear parasite raising questions as to how this parasite obtains energy from its unusual niche that is physically walled off from the host mitochondria, the main source of ATP in the host cell. In this study, draft genomes of four species of the Enterocytozoonidae namely, Ent. canceri, E. hepatopenaei, Hepatospora eriocheir and Hepatospora eriocheir canceri and one non-Enterocytozoonidae species, Thelohania sp. were assembled and annotated (The genome assembly of Hepatospora eriocheir was provided by Dr. Bryony Williams). Phylogenomics performed with this and publicly available genomic data confirmed the close evolutionary ties between Ent. canceri and E. bieneusi. Comparative genomic analyses also revealed that glycolysis is indeed lost in all members of the Enterocytozoonidae family sequenced in this study, hinting to the relaxation of evolutionary pressures to maintain this pathway at the base of this microsporidian family. Despite this absence, the hexokinase gene was retained in all aglycolytic genomes analysed, and that of Ent. canceri was fused to a PTPA gene. Functional assays and yeast complementation assays suggest that this chimera is able to recognise glucose as a substrate but the heterologously expressed homolog of H. eriocheir cannot. Finally, phylogenomics have been used here to demonstrate that despite the morphological differences between three Hepatospora-like organisms parasitizing different crab hosts, they are the same species. This finding adds more weight to current evidence suggesting that morphology is not an ideal marker for taxonomical classification in the Microsporidia.
University of Exeter Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
PhD in Biological Sciences