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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

The Genetic Diversity of Rickettsiella Symbionts in Ixodes ricinus Throughout Europe

Garcia-Vozmediano, Aitor; Tomassone, Laura; Fonville, Manoj; Bertolotti, Luigi; Heylen, Dieter; Fabri, Nannet D.; Medlock, Jolyon M.; Nijhof, Ard M.; Hansford, Kayleigh M.; Sprong, Hein; Krawczyk, Aleksandra I.

Abstract

Rickettsiella species are bacterial symbionts that are present in a great variety of arthropod species, including ixodid ticks. However, little is known about their genetic diversity and distribution in Ixodes ricinus, as well as their relationship with other tick-associated bacteria. In this study, we investigated the occurrence and the genetic diversity of Rickettsiella spp. in I. ricinus throughout Europe and evaluated any preferential and antagonistic associations with Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii and the pathogens Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Borrelia miyamotoi. Rickettsiella spp. were detected in most I. ricinus populations investigated, encompassing a wide array of climate types and environments. The infection prevalence significantly differed between geographic locations and was significantly higher in adults than in immature life stages. Phylogenetic investigations and protein characterization disclosed four Rickettsiella clades (I-IV). Close phylogenetic relations were observed between Rickettsiella strains of I. ricinus and other arthropod species. Isolation patterns were detected for Clades II and IV, which were restricted to specific geographic areas. Lastly, although coinfections occurred, we did not detect significant associations between Rickettsiella spp. and the other tick-associated bacteria investigated. Our results suggest that Rickettsiella spp. are a genetically and biologically diverse facultative symbiont of I. ricinus and that their distribution among tick populations could be influenced by environmental components.

Keywords

Rickettsiella; Tick-borne bacteria co-infection; Facultative symbionts; Ixodes ricinus ecology; Tick-borne pathogens

Published in

Microbial Ecology
2022, volume: 84, number: 2, pages: 613-626
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Garcia-Vozmediano, Aitor
University of Turin
Tomassone, Laura
University of Turin
Fonville, Manoj
Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
Bertolotti, Luigi
University of Turin
Heylen, Dieter
Hasselt University
Fabri, Nannet
Utrecht University
Fabri, Nannet
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies
Medlock, Jolyon M.
Public Health England
Nijhof, Ard M.
Free University of Berlin
Hansford, Kayleigh M.
Public Health England
Sprong, Hein
Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
Krawczyk, Aleksandra I.
Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment

UKÄ Subject classification

Ecology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-021-01869-7

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/113867