Phylogenetic Relationship Between the Endosymbiont “candidatus Riesia Pediculicola” and Its Human Lice Host

hammoud et al. (2021).
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Abstract Background: The human louse is one of the most ancient haematophagous ectoparasites that is related intimately to its host and has been of great concern to public health throughout human history. Previously, Pediculus humanus was classified within six divergent mitochondrial clades (A, D, B, F, C and E). Like all haematophagous lice, P. humanus directly depends on the presence of bacterial symbionts, known as “Candidatus Riesia pediculicola”, to complement their unbalanced diet. In this study, we evaluated the coevolution of human lice around the world and their endosymbiotic bacteria. Using molecular approaches, we targeted lice mitochondrial genes from the six diverged clades and Candidatus R. pediculicola housekeeping genes. Methods: A total of 126 lice were selected for molecular analysis of the cytb gene for lice clade determination. In parallel, four PCR primer pairs were developed targeting three housekeeping genes of Candidatus R. pediculicola: ftsZ, groEL and two regions of the rpoB gene (rpoB-1 and rpoB-2).Results: The endosymbiont phylogeny perfectly mirrored the host insect phylogeny, using the ftsZ and rpoB-2 genes, suggesting a strict vertical transmission and a host-symbiont co-speciation following the evolutionary course of the human louse. Conclusion: Our results unequivocally indicate that lice endosymbiont have experienced a similar co-evolutionary history, and that the human louse clade can be determined by their endosymbiotic bacteria.
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