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Abstract title Parasite-induced changes in host behaviour and lifespan through interference with host gene expression
Author Foitzik, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz, Mainz, Germany (Presenting author)
Topic 19 Evolution of gene expression regulation
Abstract text

Parasites can manipulate behaviour, physiology and life history of their hosts. The genetic underpinnings of these manipulations, including alterations in gene regulation are not well understood. Infection of Temnothorax nylanderi ant larvae by the parasitic cestode Anomotaenia brevis leads to phenotypic changes in adult workers such as inactivity (including the absence of a flight response) and extended lifespan. As previously shown, infection causes altered gene expression in the brain with several longevity and behavioural candidates (including vitellogenins) altering their expression. We down-regulated vitellogenin genes (vit-1, 3, and 6) by RNAi and found changes in worker behaviour, which often depended on the queens’ presence and worker caste and infection status. To understand the proximate basis of the parasite-induced increase in lifespan we exposed infected and healthy workers to oxidative stress. Although healthy workers showed a mortality rate of over 40%, very few infected workers died, indicating that infection helps workers to deal with oxidative stress. Finally, to understand how the parasite interferes with the hosts’ gene regulation we analysed the parasites’ transcriptome and found many genes with gene-regulatory function to be expressed. Future analyses will show whether the parasite releases these proteins in the host to directly affect its gene expression.