Ecological Contacts and Host Specificity Promote Replacement of Nutritional Endosymbionts in Ticks

Marie Buysse*, Florian Binetruy, Raz Leibson, Yuval Gottlieb*, Olivier Duron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Symbiosis with vitamin-provisioning microbes is essential for the nutrition of animals with some specialized feeding habits. While coevolution favors the interdependence between symbiotic partners, their associations are not necessarily stable: Recently acquired symbionts can replace ancestral symbionts. In this study, we demonstrate successful replacement by Francisella-like endosymbionts (-LE), a group of B-vitamin-provisioning endosymbionts, across tick communities driven by horizontal transfers. Using a broad collection of Francisella-LE-infected tick species, we determined the diversity of Francisella-LE haplotypes through a multi-locus strain typing approach and further characterized their phylogenetic relationships and their association with biological traits of their tick hosts. The patterns observed showed that Francisella-LE commonly transfer through similar ecological networks and geographic distributions shared among different tick species and, in certain cases, through preferential shuffling across congeneric tick species. Altogether, these findings reveal the importance of geographic, ecological, and phylogenetic proximity in shaping the replacement pattern in which new nutritional symbioses are initiated.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)776-788
Number of pages13
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Coxiella
  • Francisella
  • Horizontal transfer
  • Maternally inherited bacteria
  • Nutritional symbiosis
  • Ticks
  • Symbiosis
  • Animals
  • Host Specificity
  • Phylogeny


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