(PI is Nancy Moran, co-PI is Terese Markow)
A grant has been awarded to Dr Nancy Moran and Dr. Therese Markow of the University of Arizona to use molecular methods to document the diversity of bacterial symbionts that form chronic infections in species of fruitflies (genus Drosophila and relatives). A primary aim is to use DNA sequences as well as microscopy to characterize the diversity and distributions of bacteria infecting an evolutionarily related set of host species. Such information is so far not available for any animal group. Results will illuminate how genetic divergence, geographic separation, or ecological differences of hosts affect infection by particular bacterial types. The data will be made widely available to researchers on a website and also through public DNA sequence databases.
Increasing evidence shows that bacterial infection is usual even in healthy individuals of all animal species, from insects to humans, but the diversity of bacteria associated with particular host species or groups of related species is unexplored. This project will provide such information for fruitfly species, for which there exists a wealth of information on genetics and evolutionary relationships, including a completed genome sequence. Knowledge of the bacteria infecting fruitflies will provide study systems for a large community of researchers spanning the fields of genetics, infectious disease, and ecology. Once characterized, these symbiotic bacteria will be useful for addressing such questions as how chronic infections interact with host defenses at the molecular level and how infectious agents move between host species, sometimes resulting in the emergence of new diseases in humans and other species. Insects, including crop pests and disease vectors, frequently harbor symbionts, which have been shown to affect reproduction and vectoring capabilities of their hosts. Results of this research will aid attempts to control insect pests by manipulating symbiont associations.