Evidence for genetic variation in Natterer’s bats (Myotis nattereri) across three regions in Germany but no evidence for co-variation with their associated astroviruses
Background As bats have recently been described to harbor many different viruses, several studies have investigated the genetic co-variation between viruses and different bat species. However, little is known about the genetic co-variation of viruses and different populations of the same bat species, although such information is needed for an understanding of virus transmission dynamics within a given host species. We hypothesized that if virus transmission between host populations depends on events linked to gene flow in the bats, genetic co-variation should exist between host populations and astroviruses. Results We used 19 nuclear and one mitochondrial microsatellite loci to analyze the genetic population structure of the Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri) within and among populations at different geographical scales in Germany. Further, we correlated the observed bat population structure to that of partial astrovirus sequences (323–394 nt fragments of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene) obtained from the same bat populations. Our analyses revealed that the studied bat colonies can be grouped into three distinct genetic clusters, corresponding to the three geographic regions sampled. Furthermore, we observed an overall isolation-by-distance pattern, while no significant pattern was observed within a geographic region. Moreover, we found no correlation between the genetic distances among the bat populations and the astrovirus sequences they harbored. Even though high genetic similarity of some of the astrovirus haplotypes found in several different regions was detected, identical astrovirus haplotypes were not shared between different sampled regions. Conclusions The genetic population structure of the bat host suggests that mating sites where several local breeding colonies meet act as stepping-stones for gene flow. Identical astrovirus haplotypes were not shared between different sampled regions suggesting that astroviruses are mostly transmitted among host colonies at the local scale. Nevertheless, high genetic similarity of some of the astrovirus haplotypes found in several different regions implies that occasional transmission across regions with subsequent mutations of the virus haplotypes does occur.