The life cycle-dependent transcriptional profile of the obligate intracellular amoeba symbiont Amoebophilus asiaticus

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2022 Jan 6;fiac001. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiac001. Online ahead of print.


Free-living amoebae often harbor obligate intracellular bacterial symbionts. Amoebophilus (A.) asiaticus is a representative of a lineage of amoeba symbionts in the phylum Bacteroidota. Here, we analyze the transcriptome of A. asiaticus strain 5a2 at four time points during its infection cycle and replication within the Acanthamoeba host using RNA sequencing. Our results reveal a dynamic transcriptional landscape throughout different A. asiaticus life cycle stages. Many intracellular bacteria and pathogens utilize eukaryotic-like proteins (ELPs) for host cell interaction and the A. asiaticus 5a2 genome shows a particularly high abundance of ELPs. We show the expression of all genes encoding ELPs and found many ELPs to be differentially expressed. At the replicative stage of A. asiaticus, ankyrin repeat proteins and tetratricopeptide/Sel1-like repeat proteins were upregulated. At the later time points, high expression levels of a type 6 secretion system that likely prepares for a new infection cycle after lysing its host, were found. This study reveals comprehensive insights into the intracellular lifestyle of A. asiaticus and highlights candidate genes for host cell interaction. The results from this study have implications for other intracellular bacteria such as other amoeba-associated bacteria and the arthropod symbionts forming the sister lineage of A. asiaticus.

Keywords: Amoebophilus asiaticus; amoeba; eukaryotic-like proteins; symbiont; transcriptome; type 6 secretion system.