Nematode-Bacterial Symbiosis

Nematode-bacterial symbiosis is largely uncharted territory — there is so much to be discovered!

Nematodes are (generally) tiny worms that are found in great numbers in most habitats on earth: in the oceans, freshwater, and soils, where they often feed on bacteria.

Many nematodes, however, are parasitic and cause serious diseases in plants, animals, and fungi. These parasitic nematodes tend to have limited diets — sometimes deficient in “animal-essential nutrients” (i.e. nutrients they cannot synthesize de novo). These insects also have other challenges, such as evading their host’s immune response or defending against other microbes.

As a consequence, some parasitic nematodes have become dependent on microbial partners for survival. We focus on plant-parasitic nematodes (PPNs) and their symbionts, such as those pictured above.

We are especially interested in using metagenomics and comparative genomics to study what these communities of nematode-associated microbes do, where they come from, how they vary to benefit or control pest PPNs.

Our recent publications in this area:

2016      Brown AMV, Wasala SK, Howe DK, Peetz AB, Zasada IA, Denver DR. (2016) Genomic evidence for plant-parasitic nematodes as the earliest Wolbachia hosts. Scientific Reports 6: 34955. doi:10.1038/srep34955

2016      Phillips WS, Brown AMV, Howe DK, Peetz AB, Blok VC, Denver DR, Zasada IA. (2016) The mitochondrial genome of Globodera ellingtonae is composed of two circles with segregated gene content and differential copy numbers. BMC Genomics 17:706. doi:10.1186/s12864-016-3047-x

2016      Denver DR, Brown AMV, Howe DK, Peetz AB, Zasada IA (2016) Genome skimming: a rapid approach to gaining diverse biological insights into multicellular pathogens. PLoS Pathogens 12(8): e1005713. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005713

2015      Brown AMV, Howe DK, Peetz AB, Wasala SK, Zasada IA, Denver DR. (2015) Comparative genomics of an endosymbiont in a plant-parasitic nematode suggest a role in nutritional symbiosis. Genome Biology & Evolution 7(9):2727-2746. doi:10.1093/gbe/evv176