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Coordinated molecular and ecological adaptations underlie a highly successful parasitoid.

ELife 2024 June 22
The success of an organism depends on the molecular and ecological adaptations that promote its beneficial fitness. Parasitoids are valuable biocontrol agents for successfully managing agricultural pests, and they have evolved diversified strategies to adapt to both the physiological condition of hosts and the competition of other parasitoids. Here, we deconstructed the parasitic strategies in a highly successful parasitoid, Trichopria drosophilae , which parasitizes a broad range of Drosophila hosts, including the globally invasive species D. suzukii . We found that T. drosophilae had developed specialized venom proteins that arrest host development to obtain more nutrients via secreting tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), as well as a unique type of cell-teratocytes-that digest host tissues for feeding by releasing trypsin proteins. In addition to the molecular adaptations that optimize nutritional uptake, this pupal parasitoid has evolved ecologically adaptive strategies including the conditional tolerance of intraspecific competition to enhance parasitic success in older hosts and the obligate avoidance of interspecific competition with larval parasitoids. Our study not only demystifies how parasitoids weaponize themselves to colonize formidable hosts but also provided empirical evidence of the intricate coordination between the molecular and ecological adaptations that drive evolutionary success.

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