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BACKGROUND: Ecological studies routinely show genotype-genotype interactions between insects and their parasites. The mechanisms behind these interactions are not clearly understood. Using the bumblebee Bombus terrestris/trypanosome Crithidia bombi model system (two bumblebee colonies by two Crithidia strains), we have carried out a transcriptome-wide analysis of gene expression and alternative splicing in bees during C. bombi infection. We have performed four analyses, 1) comparing gene expression in infected and non-infected bees 24 hours after infection by Crithidia bombi, 2) comparing expression at 24 and 48 hours after C. bombi infection, 3) determining the differential gene expression associated with the bumblebee-Crithidia genotype-genotype interaction at 24 hours after infection and 4) determining the alternative splicing associated with the bumblebee-Crithidia genotype-genotype interaction at 24 hours post infection.
RESULTS: We found a large number of genes differentially regulated related to numerous canonical immune pathways. These genes include receptors, signaling pathways and effectors. We discovered a possible interaction between the peritrophic membrane and the insect immune system in defense against Crithidia. Most interestingly, we found differential expression and alternative splicing of immunoglobulin related genes (Dscam and Twitchin) are associated with the genotype-genotype interactions of the given bumblebee colony and Crithidia strain.
CONCLUSIONS: In this paper we have shown that the expression and alternative splicing of immune genes is associated with specific interactions between different host and parasite genotypes in this bumblebee/trypanosome model.
- peritrophic membrane
- social insects