Different bacterial and viral pathogens trigger distinct immune responses in a globally invasive ant.
Invasive species populations periodically collapse from high to low abundance, sometimes even to extinction. Pathogens and the burden they place on invader immune systems have been hypothesised as a mechanism for these collapses. We examined the association of the bacterial pathogen (Pseudomonas spp.) and the viral community with immune gene expression in the globally invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile (Mayr)). RNA-seq analysis found evidence for 17 different viruses in Argentine ants from New Zealand, including three bacteriophages with one (Pseudomonas phage PS-1) likely to be attacking the bacterial host. Pathogen loads and prevalence varied immensely. Transcriptomic data showed that immune gene expression was consistent with respect to the viral classification of negative-sense, positive-sense and double-stranded RNA viruses. Genes that were the most strongly associated with the positive-sense RNA viruses such as the Linepithema humile virus 1 (LHUV-1) and the Deformed wing virus (DWV) were peptide recognition proteins assigned to the Toll and Imd pathways. We then used principal components analysis and regression modelling to determine how RT-qPCR derived immune gene expression levels were associated with viral and bacterial loads. Argentine ants mounted a substantial immune response to both Pseudomonas and LHUV-1 infections, involving almost all immune pathways. Other viruses including DWV and the Kashmir bee virus appeared to have much less immunological influence. Different pathogens were associated with varying immunological responses, which we hypothesize to interact with and influence the invasion dynamics of this species.