Host-symbiont interaction of the primary endosymbiont of human head and body lice

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2007
Authors:A. M. Perotti, Allen, J. M., Reed, D. L., Braig, H. R.
Journal:The FASEB Journal
Pagination:1058 - 1066
Date Published:2007

The first mycetome was discovered more than 340 yr ago in the human louse. Despite the remarkable biology and medical and social importance of human lice, its primary endosymbiont has eluded identification and characterization. Here, we report the host-symbiont interaction of the mycetomic bacterium of the head louse Pediculus humanus capitis and the body louse P. h. humanus. The endosymbiont represents a new bacterial lineage in the -Proteobacteria. Its closest sequenced relative is Arsenophonus nasoniae, from which it differs by more than 10%. A. nasoniae is a male-killing endosymbiont of jewel wasps. Using microdissection and multiphoton confocal microscopy, we show the remarkable interaction of this bacterium with its host. This endosymbiont is unique because it occupies sequentially four different mycetomes during the development of its host, undergoes three cycles of proliferation, changes in length from 2–4 µm to more than 100 µm, and has two extracellular migrations, during one of which the endosymbionts have to outrun its host’s immune cells. The host and its symbiont have evolved one of the most complex interactions: two provisional or transitory mycetomes, a main mycetome and a paired filial mycetome. Despite the close relatedness of body and head lice, differences are present in the mycetomic provisioning and the immunological response.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith