Various parasite-host interactions that involve adaptive manipulation of host behavior display time-of-day synchronization of certain events. One example is the manipulated biting behavior observed in Carpenter ants infected with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis sensu lato. We hypothesized that biological clocks play an important role in this and other parasite-host interactions. In order to identify candidate molecular clock components, we used two general strategies: bioinformatics and transcriptional profiling. The bioinformatics approach was used to identify putative homologs of known clock genes. For transcriptional profiling, RNA-Seq was performed on 48 h time courses of Ophiocordyceps kimflemingiae (a recently named species of the O. unilateralis complex), whose genome has recently been sequenced. Fungal blastospores were entrained in liquid media under 24 h light-dark (LD) cycles and were harvested at 4 h intervals either under LD or continuous darkness. Of all O. kimflemingiae genes, 5.3% had rhythmic mRNAs under these conditions (JTK Cycle, ≤ 0.057 statistical cutoff). Our data further indicates that a significant number of transcription factors have a peaked activity during the light phase (day time). The expression levels of a significant number of secreted enzymes, proteases, toxins and small bioactive compounds peaked during the dark phase or subjective night. These findings support a model whereby this fungal parasite uses its biological clock for phase-specific activity. We further suggest that this may be a general mechanism involved in parasite-host interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)