Tsetse flies (Diptera: Glossinidae) house a taxonomically diverse microbiota that includes environmentally acquired bacteria, maternally transmitted symbiotic bacteria, and pathogenic African trypanosomes. Sodalis glossinidius, which is a facultative symbiont that resides intra and extracellularly within multiple tsetse tissues, has been implicated as a mediator of trypanosome infection establishment in the fly’s gut. Tsetse’s gut-associated population of Sodalis are subjected to marked temperature fluctuations each time their ectothermic fly host imbibes vertebrate blood. The molecular mechanisms that Sodalis employs to deal with this heat stress are unknown. In this study, we examined the thermal tolerance and heat shock response of Sodalis. When grown on BHI agar plates, the bacterium exhibited the most prolific growth at 25oC, and did not grow at temperatures above 30oC. Growth on BHI agar plates at 31°C was dependent on either the addition of blood to the agar or reduction in oxygen levels. Sodalis was viable in liquid cultures for 24 hours at 30oC, but began to die upon further exposure. The rate of death increased with increased temperature. Similarly, Sodalis was able to survive for 48 hours within tsetse flies housed at 30oC, while a higher temperature (37oC) was lethal. Sodalis’ genome contains homologues of the heat shock chaperone protein-encoding genes dnaK, dnaJ, and grpE, and their expression was up-regulated in thermally stressed Sodalis, both in vitro and in vivo within tsetse fly midguts. Arrested growth of E. coli dnaK, dnaJ, or grpE mutants under thermal stress was reversed when the cells were transformed with a low copy plasmid that encoded the Sodalis homologues of these genes. The information contained in this study provides insight into how arthropod vector enteric commensals, many of which mediate their host’s ability to transmit pathogens, mitigate heat shock associated with the ingestion of a blood meal.

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Copyright © 2019 Roma et al. This article first appeared in Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 13:11 (2019): e0007464.

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Roma, Jose Santinni, Shaina D’Souza, Patrick J. Somers, Leah F. Cabo, Ruhan Farsin, Serap Aksoy, Laura J. Runyen-Janecky, and Brian L. Weiss. “Thermal Stress Responses of Sodalis Glossinidius, an Indigenous Bacterial Symbiont of Hematophagous Tsetse Flies.” Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 13, no. 11 (November 2019): e0007464.