Discovery of a novel symbiotic lineage associated with a hematophagous leech from the genus Haementeria

Víctor Manuel Sosa-Jiménez, Sebastian Kvist, Alejandro Manzano-Marín (Corresponding author), Alejandro Oceguera-Figueroa

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Similarly to other strict blood feeders, leeches from the Haementeria genus (Hirudinida: Glossiphoniidae) have established a symbiotic association with bacteria harbored intracellularly in esophageal bacteriomes. Previous genome sequence analyses of these endosymbionts revealed co-divergence with their hosts, a strong genome reduction, and a simplified metabolism largely dedicated to the production of B vitamins, which are nutrients lacking from a blood diet. 'Candidatus Providencia siddallii' has been identified as the obligate nutritional endosymbiont of a monophyletic clade of Mexican and South American Haementeria spp. However, the Haementeria genus includes a sister clade of congeners from Central and South America, where the presence or absence of the aforementioned symbiont taxon remains unknown. In this work, we report on a novel bacterial endosymbiont found in a representative from this Haementeria clade. We found that this symbiont lineage has evolved from within the Pluralibacter genus, known mainly from clinical but also environmental strains. Similarly to Ca. Providencia siddallii, the Haementeria-associated Pluralibacter symbiont displays clear signs of genome reduction, accompanied by an A+T-biased sequence composition. Genomic analysis of its metabolic potential revealed a retention of pathways related to B vitamin biosynthesis, supporting its role as a nutritional endosymbiont. Finally, comparative genomics of both Haementeria symbiont lineages suggests that an ancient Providencia symbiont was likely replaced by the novel Pluralibacter one, thus constituting the first reported case of nutritional symbiont replacement in a leech without morphological changes in the bacteriome.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere04286-23
Number of pages11
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106005 Bioinformatics
  • 106012 Evolutionary research
  • 106014 Genomics
  • 106022 Microbiology


  • Hirudinida
  • leech symbiont
  • symbiont replacement
  • blood feeder
  • B vitamin
  • Pluralibacter

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