Metatranscriptome analysis of fig flowers provides insights into potential mechanisms for mutualism stability and gall induction

Ellen O. Martinson, Jeremiah Hackett, Carlos A. Machado, Anne E Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A striking property of the mutualism between figs and their pollinating wasps is that wasps consistently oviposit in the inner flowers of the fig syconium, which develop into galls that house developing larvae. Wasps typically do not use the outer ring of flowers, which develop into seeds. To better understand differences between gall and seed flowers, we used a metatranscriptomic approach to analyze eukaryotic gene expression within fig flowers at the time of oviposition choice and early gall development. Consistent with the unbeatable seed hypothesis, we found significant differences in gene expression between galland seed flowers in receptive syconia prior to oviposition. In particular, transcripts assigned to flavonoids and carbohydrate metabolism were significantly up-regulated in gall flowers relative to seed flowers. In response to oviposition, gall flowers significantly up-regulated the expression of chalcone synthase, which previously has been connected to gall formation in other plants. We propose several genes encoding proteins with signal peptides or associations with venom of other Hymenoptera as candidate genes for gall initiation or growth. This study simultaneously evaluates the gene expression profile of both mutualistic partners in a plant-insect mutualism and provides insight into a possible stability mechanism in the ancient fig-fig wasp association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0130745
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 19 2015

Fingerprint

Ficus
Symbiosis
mutualism
figs
galls
Seed
flowers
Wasps
Gene expression
Seeds
Oviposition
seeds
oviposition
Gene encoding
gene expression
Venoms
Protein Sorting Signals
Flavonoids
Agaonidae
Gene Expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Metatranscriptome analysis of fig flowers provides insights into potential mechanisms for mutualism stability and gall induction. / Martinson, Ellen O.; Hackett, Jeremiah; Machado, Carlos A.; Arnold, Anne E.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 6, e0130745, 19.06.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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