Impact of host demography and evolutionary history on endosymbiont molecular evolution: A test in carpenter ants (genus Camponotus) and their Blochmannia endosymbionts

Ecol Evol. 2022 Jul 3;12(7):e9026. doi: 10.1002/ece3.9026. eCollection 2022 Jul.


Obligate endosymbioses are tight associations between symbionts and the hosts they live inside. Hosts and their associated obligate endosymbionts generally exhibit codiversification, which has been documented in taxonomically diverse insect lineages. Host demography (e.g., effective population sizes) may impact the demography of endosymbionts, which may lead to an association between host demography and the patterns and processes of endosymbiont molecular evolution. Here, we used whole-genome sequencing data for carpenter ants (Genus Camponotus; subgenera Camponotus and Tanaemyrmex) and their Blochmannia endosymbionts as our study system to address whether Camponotus demography shapes Blochmannia molecular evolution. Using whole-genome phylogenomics, we confirmed previous work identifying codiversification between carpenter ants and their Blochmannia endosymbionts. We found that Blochmannia genes have evolved at a pace ~30× faster than that of their hosts' molecular evolution and that these rates are positively associated with host rates of molecular evolution. Using multiple tests for selection in Blochmannia genes, we found signatures of positive selection and shifts in selection strength across the phylogeny. Host demography was associated with Blochmannia shifts toward increased selection strengths, but not associated with Blochmannia selection relaxation, positive selection, genetic drift rates, or genome size evolution. Mixed support for relationships between host effective population sizes and Blochmannia molecular evolution suggests weak or uncoupled relationships between host demography and Blochmannia population genomic processes. Finally, we found that Blochmannia genome size evolution was associated with genome-wide estimates of genetic drift and number of genes with relaxed selection pressures.

Keywords: Codiversification; genome evolution; genomics; mutualism.