Variations in the relative abundance ofWolbachiain the gut ofNasutitermes arborumacross life stages and castes

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There are multiple forms of interactions between termites and bacteria. In addition to their gut microbiota, which has been intensively studied, termites host intracellular symbionts such as Wolbachia. These distinct symbioses have been so far approached independently and mostly in adult termites. We addressed the dynamics of Wolbachia and the microbiota of the eggs and gut for various life stages and castes of the wood-feeding termite, Nasutitermes arborum, using deep-sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Wolbachia was dominant in eggs as expected. Unexpectedly, it persisted in the gut of nearly all stages and castes, indicating a wide somatic distribution in termites. Wolbachia-related sequences clustered into few operational taxonomic units, but these were within the same genotype, acquired maternally. Wolbachia was largely dominant in DNA extracts from the guts of larvae and pre-soldiers (59.1%-99.1% of reads) where gut-resident lineages were less represented and less diverse. The reverse was true for the adult castes. This is the first study reporting the age-dependency of the relative abundance of Wolbachia in the termite gut and its negative correlation with the diversity of the microbiota. The possible mechanisms underlying this negative interaction are discussed.

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