Predictive Genomic Analyses Inform the Basis for Vitamin Metabolism and Provisioning in Bacteria-Arthropod Endosymbioses

G3 (Bethesda). 2017 Jun 7;7(6):1887-1898. doi: 10.1534/g3.117.042184.


The requirement of vitamins for core metabolic processes creates a unique set of pressures for arthropods subsisting on nutrient-limited diets. While endosymbiotic bacteria carried by arthropods have been widely implicated in vitamin provisioning, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. To address this issue, standardized predictive assessment of vitamin metabolism was performed in 50 endosymbionts of insects and arachnids. The results predicted that arthropod endosymbionts overall have little capacity for complete de novo biosynthesis of conventional or active vitamin forms. Partial biosynthesis pathways were commonly predicted, suggesting a substantial role in vitamin provisioning. Neither taxonomic relationships between host and symbiont, nor the mode of host-symbiont interaction were clear predictors of endosymbiont vitamin pathway capacity. Endosymbiont genome size and the synthetic capacity of nonsymbiont taxonomic relatives were more reliable predictors. We developed a new software application that also predicted that last-step conversion of intermediates into active vitamin forms may contribute further to vitamin biosynthesis by endosymbionts. Most instances of predicted vitamin conversion were paralleled by predictions of vitamin use. This is consistent with achievement of provisioning in some cases through upregulation of pathways that were retained for endosymbiont benefit. The predicted absence of other enzyme classes further suggests a baseline of vitamin requirement by the majority of endosymbionts, as well as some instances of putative mutualism. Adaptation of this workflow to analysis of other organisms and metabolic pathways will provide new routes for considering the molecular basis for symbiosis on a comprehensive scale.

Keywords: arthropod; endosymbiont; provisioning; symbiosis; vitamin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / genetics*
  • Arthropods / metabolism*
  • Arthropods / microbiology
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genomics* / methods
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Symbiosis / genetics*
  • Vitamins / metabolism*


  • Vitamins