Bacterial mutualists can modulate the biochemical capacity of animals. Highly coevolved nutritional mutualists do this by synthesizing nutrients missing from the host's diet. Genomics tools have advanced the study of these partnerships. Here we examined the endosymbiont Xiphinematobacter (phylum Verrucomicrobia) from the dagger nematode Xiphinema americanum, a migratory ectoparasite of numerous crops that also vectors nepovirus. Previously, this endosymbiont was identified in the gut, ovaries, and eggs, but its role was unknown. We explored the potential role of this symbiont using fluorescence in situ hybridization, genome sequencing, and comparative functional genomics. We report the first genome of an intracellular Verrucomicrobium and the first exclusively intracellular non-Wolbachia nematode symbiont. Results revealed that Xiphinematobacter had a small 0.916-Mb genome with only 817 predicted proteins, resembling genomes of other mutualist endosymbionts. Compared with free-living relatives, conserved proteins were shorter on average, and there was large-scale loss of regulatory pathways. Despite massive gene loss, more genes were retained for biosynthesis of amino acids predicted to be essential to the host. Gene ontology enrichment tests showed enrichment for biosynthesis of arginine, histidine, and aromatic amino acids, as well as thiamine and coenzyme A, diverging from the profiles of relatives Akkermansia muciniphilia (in the human colon), Methylacidiphilum infernorum, and the mutualist Wolbachia from filarial nematodes. Together, these features and the location in the gut suggest that Xiphinematobacter functions as a nutritional mutualist, supplementing essential nutrients that are depleted in the nematode diet. This pattern points to evolutionary convergence with endosymbionts found in sap-feeding insects.
- Comparative genomics
- Nutritional symbiosis