Novel evolutionary insights on the interactions of the Holosporales (Alphaproteobacteria) with eukaryotic hosts from comparative genomics

Environ Microbiol. 2024 Jan;26(1):e16562. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.16562. Epub 2024 Jan 3.


Holosporales are an alphaproteobacterial order engaging in obligate and complex associations with eukaryotes, in particular protists. The functional and evolutionary features of those interactions are still largely undisclosed. Here, we sequenced the genomes of two members of the species Bealeia paramacronuclearis (Holosporales, Holosporaceae) intracellularly associated with the ciliate protist Paramecium, which resulted in high correspondence. Consistent with the short-branched early-divergent phylogenetic position, Bealeia presents a larger functional repertoire than other Holosporaceae, comparable to those of other Holosporales families, particularly for energy metabolism and motility. Our analyses indicate that different Holosporales likely experienced at least partly autonomous genome reduction and adaptation to host interactions, for example regarding dependence on host biotin driven by multiple independent horizontal acquisitions of transporters. Among Alphaproteobacteria, this is reminiscent of the convergently evolved Rickettsiales, which however appear more diverse, possibly due to a probably more ancient origin. We identified in Bealeia and other Holosporales the plasmid-encoded putative genetic determinants of R-bodies, which may be involved in a killer trait towards symbiont-free hosts. While it is not clear whether these genes are ancestral or recently horizontally acquired, an intriguing and peculiar role of R-bodies is suggested in the evolution of the interactions of multiple Holosporales with their hosts.

MeSH terms

  • Alphaproteobacteria* / genetics
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Paramecium* / microbiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Symbiosis / genetics