First Advisor

Rahul Raghavan

Date of Publication

Summer 8-11-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology






Endosymbiosis, Ticks, Bacterial genetics, Genomics



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 68 pages)


Endosymbiosis in arthropods involves intracellular bacteria that supply an array of benefits to the host. Endosymbionts likely enhance the health of ticks by provisioning amino acids such as cysteine and tyrosine, and cofactors such as biotin and folic acid that are not available in blood--the sole nutrient source of ticks. Endosymbionts of ticks are of special interest due to their close evolutionary relationship with tick-vectored pathogens that impact livestock and human health. For example, ticks typically contain Coxiella-like endosymbionts (CLEs) that are the closest relatives of the human pathogen Coxiella burnetii. In order to understand the evolutionary relationship between the mammalian pathogen Francisella tularensis, which is vectored by ticks, and the Francisella-like endosymbionts (FLEs) present in several ticks, we assembled the genomes of the FLEs in the hard tick Amblyomma maculatum and the soft tick Ornithodoros moubata using high-throughput sequencing. While this project was in progress, another group described the genome of an FLE in the soft tick Argus (Persicargas) arboreus. Utilizing the three genomes, we show that all FLEs evolved from a mammalian pathogen, a relationship that is converse to that of C. burnetii, which likely evolved from a tick-associated non-pathogenic ancestor. Additionally, our analyses indicate that FLEs are horizontally transferred between ticks, and due to their superior metabolic capabilities could replace ancestral endosymbionts with reduced genomes.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier

Included in

Biology Commons