The dynamics of host-parasite interactions can change dramatically over the course of a chronic infection as the internal (physiological) and external (environmental) conditions of the host change. When queens of social insects found a colony, they experience changes in both their physiological state (they develop their ovaries and begin laying eggs) and the social environment (they suddenly stop interacting with the other members of the mother colony), making this an excellent model system for examining how these factors interact with chronic infections. We investigated the dynamics of host-viral interactions in queens of Solenopsis invicta (fire ant) as they transition from mating to colony founding/brood rearing to the emergence of the first workers. We examined these dynamics in naturally infected queens in two different social environments, where queens either founded colonies as individuals or as pairs. We hypothesized that stress associated with colony founding plays an important role in the dynamics of host-parasite interactions. We also hypothesized that different viruses have different modalities of interaction with the host that can be quantified by physiological measures and genomic analysis of gene expression in the host. We found that the two most prevalent viruses, SINV-1 and SINV-2, are associated with different fitness costs that are mirrored by different patterns of gene expression in the host. In fact SINV-2, the virus that imposes the significant reduction of a queen's reproductive output is also associated with larger changes of global gene expression in the host. These results show the complexity of interactions between S. invicta and two viral parasites. Our findings also show that chronic infections by viral parasites in insects are dynamic processes that may pose different challenges in the host, laying the groundwork for interesting ecological and evolutionary considerations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation