How Spiderman got his Powers: A Look into Lateral Gene Transfer
Demonstrating high LGT frequency in invertebrates, Dr. Dunning Hotopp’s team detected LGT from the bacterial endosymbionts Wolbachia in over 30% of sequenced arthropod genomes. Wolbachia is an intracellular bacterial parasite/mutualist with complex host interactions. While LGT from bacteria to animals often has no benefit to a host, in certain cases it can be advantageous. For example, the coffee berry borer, a major pest to coffee growers, and the brown marmorated stink bug both have a gene originally acquired from bacteria. The gene, HhMAN1, codes for the protein mannanse and enables insects to digest plant sugars.
This diagram shows the relative abundance of a several different genes of interest, (red indicates a lower than average level whereas green indicates a higher amount). Notice that at different times during the insects’ development (x-axis) the different proteins produced by those genes (the y-axis) are expressed in varying amounts. If you take a look at the mannase genes from the endosymbionts, you can see that the expression levels are lower (indicated by the red for rows 13 and 14 to the right). Ankyrin repeat proteins are highly expressed in active female nymphs (rows 10 and 11 (Ioannidis et al., BMC Genomics, 2014.).
Unfortunately, acquisition of bacterial genes can also be harmful. Dr. Dunning Hotopp postulates that LGT in somatic (body) cells could mutagenize (cause DNA changes in) the human genome resulting in cancerous tumors.
About the speaker:
Dr. Julie Dunning Hotopp is an Associate Professor in the Institute for Genome Sciences and Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research focuses on both lateral gene transfer from bacteria to animals as well as bacterial comparative genomics.
About the authors:
Kevin Ulrich is a graduate student in the Thorne Lab in the Entomology Department at UMD. He is studying the role bed bug chemical secretions play in communication and defense. He will be graduating this May.
Jonathan Wang is a graduate student in the St. Leger Lab in the Entomology Department at UMD. He is studying drosophila immunity and fungal pathogenesis.
Acuna, R., B. E. Padilla, C. P. Florez-Ramos, J. D. Rubio, J. C. Herrera, P. Benavides, S.-J. Lee, T. H. Yeats, A. N. Egan, J. J. Doyle, and J. K. C. Rose. "Adaptive Horizontal Transfer of a Bacterial Gene to an Invasive Insect Pest of Coffee." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109.11 (2012): 4197-202. Web.
"The Horrible Truth about Spiderman's Anatomy." Bug Girls Blog. N.p., 25 July 2012. Web. 13 May 2015.
Ioannidis, Panagiotis, Yong Lu, Nikhil Kumar, Todd Creasy, Sean Daugherty, Marcus C. Chibucos, Joshua Orvis, Amol Shetty, Sandra Ott, Melissa Flowers, Naomi Sengamalay, Luke J. Tallon, Leslie Pick, and Julie C. Hotopp. "Rapid Transcriptome Sequencing of an Invasive Pest, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Halyomorpha Halys." BMC Genomics 15.1 (2014): 738. Web.
"Kevinulrich.net." Kevinulrich.net. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2015.
Riley, David R., Karsten B. Sieber, Kelly M. Robinson, James Robert White, Ashwinkumar Ganesan, Syrus Nourbakhsh, and Julie C. Dunning Hotopp. "Bacteria-Human Somatic Cell Lateral Gene Transfer Is Enriched in Cancer Samples." PLoS Computational Biology PLoS Comput Biol 9.6 (2013): n. pag. Web.
"SOM Faculty Profile : Julie C. Hotopp." SOM Faculty Profile : Julie C. Hotopp. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2015.