Highly divergent Mollicutes symbionts coexist in the scorpion Androctonus australis

Khaled Elmnasri, Chadlia Hamdi, Besma Ettoumi, Elena Crotti, Amel Guesmi, Afef Najjari, Vangelis Doudoumis, Abdellatif Boudabous, Daniele Daffonchio, George Tsiamis, Ameur Cherif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Androctonus australis is one of the most ubiquitous and common scorpion species in desert and arid lands from North Africa to India and it has an important ecological role and social impact. The bacterial community associated to this arachnid is unknown and we aimed to dissect its species composition in the gut, gonads, and venom gland. A 16S rRNA gene culture-independent diversity analysis revealed, among six other taxonomic groups (Firmicutes, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Flavobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Cyanobacteria), a dominance of Mollicutes phylotypes recorded both in the digestive tract and the gonads. These related Mollicutes include two Spiroplasma phylotypes (12.5% of DGGE bands and 15% of clones), and a new Mycoplasma cluster (80% of clones) showing 16S rRNA sequence identities of 95 and 93% with Mollicutes detected in the Mexican scorpions Centruroides limpidus and Vaejovis smithi, respectively. Such scorpion-associated Mollicutes form a new lineage that share a distant ancestor with Mycoplasma hominis. The observed host specificity with the apparent phylogenetic divergence suggests a relatively long co-evolution of these symbionts with the scorpion hosts. From the ecological point of view, such association may play a beneficial role for the host fitness, especially during dormancy or molt periods.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-835
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Basic Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 18 2018

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank the European Union for financial support under the project BIODESERT (European Community's Seventh Framework Programme CSA-SA REGPOT-2008-2, grant agreement no. 245746) and the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research in the ambit of the laboratory projects MBA206 and LR11ES31. DD has been supported by the baseline research funds provided by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).


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