Parasite reliance on its host gut microbiota for nutrition and survival
Studying the microbial symbionts of eukaryotic hosts has revealed a range of interactions that benefit host biology. Most eukaryotes are also infected by parasites that adversely affect host biology for their own benefit. However, it is largely unclear whether the ability of parasites to develop in hosts also depends on host-associated symbionts, e.g., the gut microbiota. Here, we studied the parasitic wasp Leptopilina boulardi (Lb) and its host Drosophila melanogaster. Results showed that Lb successfully develops in conventional hosts (CN) with a gut microbiota but fails to develop in axenic hosts (AX) without a gut microbiota. We determined that developing Lb larvae consume fat body cells that store lipids. We also determined that much larger amounts of lipid accumulate in fat body cells of parasitized CN hosts than parasitized AX hosts. CN hosts parasitized by Lb exhibited large increases in the abundance of the bacterium Acetobacter pomorum in the gut, but did not affect the abundance of Lactobacillus fructivorans which is another common member of the host gut microbiota. However, AX hosts inoculated with A. pomorum and/or L. fructivorans did not rescue development of Lb. In contrast, AX larvae inoculated with A. pomorum plus other identified gut community members including a Bacillus sp. substantially rescued Lb development. Rescue was further associated with increased lipid accumulation in host fat body cells. Insulin-like peptides increased in brain neurosecretory cells of parasitized CN larvae. Lipid accumulation in the fat body of CN hosts was further associated with reduced Bmm lipase activity mediated by insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS). Altogether, our results identify a previously unknown role for the gut microbiota in defining host permissiveness for a parasite. Our findings also identify a new paradigm for parasite manipulation of host metabolism that depends on insulin signaling and the gut microbiota.