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The recent evolution of a maternally-inherited endosymbiont of ticks led to the emergence of the Q fever pathogen, Coxiella burnetii

Duron O., Noel V., McCoy K.D., Bonazzi M., Sidi-Boumedine K., Morel O., Vavre F., Zenner L., Jourdain E., Durand P., Arnathau C., Renaud F., Trape J.F., Biguezoton A.S., Cremaschi J., Dietrich M., Leger E., Appelgren A., Dupraz M., Gómez-Díaz E., Diatta G., Dayo G.K., Adakal H., Zoungrana A., Vial L., Chevillon C.. 2015. PLoS Pathogens, 11 (5) : e1004892 (23 p.).

Q fever is a highly infectious disease with a worldwide distribution. Its causative agent, the intracellular bacterium Coxiella burnetii, infects a variety of vertebrate species, including humans. Its evolutionary origin remains almost entirely unknown and uncertainty persists regarding the identity and lifestyle of its ancestors. A few tick species were recently found to harbor maternally-inherited Coxiella-like organisms engaged in symbiotic interactions, but their relationships to the Q fever pathogen remain unclear. Here, we extensively sampled ticks, identifying new and atypical Coxiella strains from 40 of 58 examined species, and used this data to infer the evolutionary processes leading to the emergence of C. burnetii. Phylogenetic analyses of multi-locus typing and whole-genome sequencing data revealed that Coxiella-like organisms represent an ancient and monophyletic group allied to ticks. Remarkably, all known C. burnetii strains originate within this group and are the descendants of a Coxiella-like progenitor hosted by ticks. Using both colony-reared and field-collected gravid females, we further establish the presence of highly efficient maternal transmission of these Coxiella -like organisms in four examined tick species, a pattern coherent with an endosymbiotic lifestyle. Our laboratory culture assays also showed that these Coxiella -like organisms were not amenable to culture in the vertebrate cell environment, suggesting dif- ferent metabolic requirements compared to C . burnetii . Altogether, this corpus of data dem- onstrates that C . burnetii recently evolved from an inherited symbiont of ticks which succeeded in infecting vertebrate cells, likely by the acquisition of novel virulence factors. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : coxiella burnetii; Évolution; symbiote; fièvre q; rhipicephalus; relation hôte pathogène; virulence; vertèbre; variation génétique; héritabilité; femelle; monde; rhipicephalus microplus; tique

Thématique : Maladies des animaux; Organismes nuisibles des animaux

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