Nasonia vitripennis Venom Causes Targeted Gene Expression Changes in Its Fly Host

TitleNasonia vitripennis Venom Causes Targeted Gene Expression Changes in Its Fly Host
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMartinson, EO, Wheeler, D, Wright, JJ, Mrinalini,, Siebert, AL, Werren, JH
JournalMolecular Ecology
Keywordsenhancer of split, extended phenotype, parasitoid wasps, venom

Parasitoid wasps are diverse and ecologically important insects that use venom to modify their host's metabolism for the benefit of the parasitoid's offspring. Thus, the effects of venom can be considered an ‘extended phenotype’ of the wasp. The model parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis has approximately 100 venom proteins, 23 of which do not have sequence similarity to known proteins. Envenomation by N. vitripennis has previously been shown to induce developmental arrest, selective apoptosis and alterations in lipid metabolism in flesh fly hosts. However, the full effects of Nasonia venom are still largely unknown. In this study, we used high throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to characterize global changes in Sarcophaga bullata (Diptera) gene expression in response to envenomation by N. vitripennis. Surprisingly, we show that Nasonia venom targets a small subset of S. bullata loci, with ~2% genes being differentially expressed in response to envenomation. Strong upregulation of enhancer of split complex genes provides a potential molecular mechanism that could explain the observed neural cell death and developmental arrest in envenomated hosts. Significant increases in antimicrobial peptides and their corresponding regulatory genes provide evidence that venom could be selectively activating certain immune responses of the hosts. Further, we found differential expression of genes in several metabolic pathways, including glycolysis and gluconeogenesis that may be responsible for the decrease in pyruvate levels found in envenomated hosts. The targeting of Nasonia venom effects to a specific and limited set of genes provides insight into the interaction between the ectoparasitoid wasp and its host.