Genome sequence of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, an apicomplexan parasite of monarch butterflies: Cryptic diversity and response to host-sequestered plant chemicals

Andrew J. Mongue, Simon H. Martin, Rachel E. V. Manweiler, Helena Scullion, Jordyn L. Koehn, Jacobus C. De Roode, James R. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Apicomplexa are ancient and diverse organisms which have been poorly characterized by modern genomics. To better understand the evolution and diversity of these single-celled eukaryotes, we sequenced the genome of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a parasite of monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus. We contextualize our newly generated resources within apicomplexan genomics before answering longstanding questions specific to this host-parasite system. To start, the genome is miniscule, totaling only 9 million bases and containing fewer than 3,000 genes, half the gene content of two other sequenced invertebrate-infecting apicomplexans, Porospora gigantea and Gregarina niphandrodes. We found that O. elektroscirrha shares different orthologs with each sequenced relative, suggesting the true set of universally conserved apicomplexan genes is very small indeed. Next, we show that sequencing data from other potential host butterflies can be used to diagnose infection status as well as to study diversity of parasite sequences. We recovered a similarly sized parasite genome from another butterfly, Danaus chrysippus, that was highly diverged from the O. elektroscirrha reference, possibly representing a distinct species. Using these two new genomes, we investigated potential evolutionary response by parasites to toxic phytochemicals their hosts ingest and sequester. Monarch butterflies are well-known to tolerate toxic cardenolides thanks to changes in the sequence of their Type II ATPase sodium pumps. We show that Ophryocystis completely lacks Type II or Type 4 sodium pumps, and related proteins PMCA calcium pumps show extreme sequence divergence compared to other Apicomplexa, demonstrating new avenues of research opened by genome sequencing of non-model Apicomplexa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number278
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Genomics
Volume24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • monarch butterfly parasite
  • OE
  • protist genomics
  • ATPase
  • sodium potassium pump
  • apicomplexan genomics
  • cryptic species

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