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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vitamin B6 generated by obligate symbionts is critical for maintaining proline homeostasis and fecundity in tsetse flies.

  • Author(s): Michalkova, Veronika;
  • Benoit, Joshua B;
  • Weiss, Brian L;
  • Attardo, Geoffrey M;
  • Aksoy, Serap
  • et al.

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The viviparous tsetse fly utilizes proline as a hemolymph-borne energy source. In tsetse, biosynthesis of proline from alanine involves the enzyme alanine-glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGAT), which requires pyridoxal phosphate (vitamin B6) as a cofactor. This vitamin can be synthesized by tsetse's obligate symbiont, Wigglesworthia glossinidia. In this study, we examined the role of Wigglesworthia-produced vitamin B6 for maintenance of proline homeostasis, specifically during the energetically expensive lactation period of the tsetse's reproductive cycle. We found that expression of agat, as well as genes involved in vitamin B6 metabolism in both host and symbiont, increases in lactating flies. Removal of symbionts via antibiotic treatment of flies (aposymbiotic) led to hypoprolinemia, reduced levels of vitamin B6 in lactating females, and decreased fecundity. Proline homeostasis and fecundity recovered partially when aposymbiotic tsetse were fed a diet supplemented with either yeast or Wigglesworthia extracts. RNA interference-mediated knockdown of agat in wild-type flies reduced hemolymph proline levels to that of aposymbiotic females. Aposymbiotic flies treated with agat short interfering RNA (siRNA) remained hypoprolinemic even upon dietary supplementation with microbial extracts or B vitamins. Flies infected with parasitic African trypanosomes display lower hemolymph proline levels, suggesting that the reduced fecundity observed in parasitized flies could result from parasite interference with proline homeostasis. This interference could be manifested by competition between tsetse and trypanosomes for vitamins, proline, or other factors involved in their synthesis. Collectively, these results indicate that the presence of Wigglesworthia in tsetse is critical for the maintenance of proline homeostasis through vitamin B6 production.

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