Complete genome DNA sequence and analysis is presented for Wolbachia, the obligate alpha-proteobacterial endosymbiont required for fertility and survival of the human filarial parasitic nematode Brugia malayi. Although, quantitatively, the genome is even more degraded than those of closely related Rickettsia species, Wolbachia has retained more intact metabolic pathways. The ability to provide riboflavin, flavin adenine dinucleotide, heme, and nucleotides is likely to be Wolbachia's principal contribution to the mutualistic relationship, whereas the host nematode likely supplies amino acids required for Wolbachia growth. Genome comparison of the Wolbachia endosymbiont of B. malayi (wBm) with the Wolbachia endosymbiont of Drosophila melanogaster (wMel) shows that they share similar metabolic trends, although their genomes show a high degree of genome shuffling. In contrast to wMel, wBm contains no prophage and has a reduced level of repeated DNA. Both Wolbachia have lost a considerable number of membrane biogenesis genes that apparently make them unable to synthesize lipid A, the usual component of proteobacterial membranes. However, differences in their peptidoglycan structures may reflect the mutualistic lifestyle of wBm in contrast to the parasitic lifestyle of wMel. The smaller genome size of wBm, relative to wMel, may reflect the loss of genes required for infecting host cells and avoiding host defense systems. Analysis of this first sequenced endosymbiont genome from a filarial nematode provides insight into endosymbiont evolution and additionally provides new potential targets for elimination of cutaneous and lymphatic human filarial disease.
Analysis of this Wolbachia genome, which resides within filarial parasites, offers insight into endosymbiont evolution and the promise of new strategies for the elimination of human filarial disease
Many species of filarial nematodes depend on Wolbachia endobacteria to carry out their life cycle. Other species are naturally Wolbachia-free. The biological mechanisms underpinning Wolbachia-dependence and independence in filarial nematodes are not known. Previous studies have indicated that Wolbachia have an impact on mitochondrial gene expression, which may suggest a role in energy metabolism. If Wolbachia can supplement host energy metabolism, reduced mitochondrial function in infected filarial species may account for Wolbachia-dependence. Wolbachia also have a strong influence on mitochondrial evolution due to vertical co-transmission. This could drive alterations in mitochondrial genome sequence in infected species. Comparisons between the mitochondrial genome sequences of Wolbachia-dependent and independent filarial worms may reveal differences indicative of altered mitochondrial function.
The mitochondrial genomes of 5 species of filarial nematodes, Acanthocheilonema viteae, Chandlerella quiscali, Loa loa, Onchocerca flexuosa, and Wuchereria bancrofti, were sequenced, annotated and compared with available mitochondrial genome sequences from Brugia malayi, Dirofilaria immitis, Onchocerca volvulus and Setaria digitata. B. malayi, D. immitis, O. volvulus and W. bancrofti are Wolbachia-dependent while A. viteae, C. quiscali, L. loa, O. flexuosa and S. digitata are Wolbachia-free. The 9 mitochondrial genomes were similar in size and AT content and encoded the same 12 protein-coding genes, 22 tRNAs and 2 rRNAs. Synteny was perfectly preserved in all species except C. quiscali, which had a different order for 5 tRNA genes. Protein-coding genes were expressed at the RNA level in all examined species. In phylogenetic trees based on mitochondrial protein-coding sequences, species did not cluster according to Wolbachia dependence.
Thus far, no discernable differences were detected between the mitochondrial genome sequences of Wolbachia-dependent and independent species. Additional research will be needed to determine whether mitochondria from Wolbachia-dependent filarial species show reduced function in comparison to the mitochondria of Wolbachia-independent species despite their sequence-level similarities.
The endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis infects a broad range of arthropod and filarial nematode hosts. These diverse associations form an attractive model for understanding host:symbiont coevolution. Wolbachia's ubiquity and ability to dramatically alter host reproductive biology also form the foundation of research strategies aimed at controlling insect pests and vector-borne disease. The Wolbachia strains that infect nematodes are phylogenetically distinct, strictly vertically transmitted, and required by their hosts for growth and reproduction. Insects in contrast form more fluid associations with Wolbachia. In these taxa, host populations are most often polymorphic for infection, horizontal transmission occurs between distantly related hosts, and direct fitness effects on hosts are mild. Despite extensive interest in the Wolbachia system for many years, relatively little is known about the molecular mechanisms that mediate its varied interactions with different hosts. We have compared the genomes of the Wolbachia that infect Drosophila melanogaster, wMel and the nematode Brugia malayi, wBm to that of an outgroup Anaplasma marginale to identify genes that have experienced diversifying selection in the Wolbachia lineages. The goal of the study was to identify likely molecular mechanisms of the symbiosis and to understand the nature of the diverse association across different hosts.
The prevalence of selection was far greater in wMel than wBm. Genes contributing to DNA metabolism, cofactor biosynthesis, and secretion were positively selected in both lineages. In wMel there was a greater emphasis on DNA repair, cell division, protein stability, and cell envelope synthesis.
Secretion pathways and outer surface protein encoding genes are highly affected by selection in keeping with host:parasite theory. If evidence of selection on various cofactor molecules reflects possible provisioning, then both insect as well as nematode Wolbachia may be providing substances to hosts. Selection on cell envelope synthesis, DNA replication and repair machinery, heat shock, and two component switching suggest strategies insect Wolbachia may employ to cope with diverse host and intra-host environments.
Wolbachia bacteria are obligate intracellular alpha-Proteobacteria of arthropods and nematodes. Although widespread among isopod crustaceans, they have seldom been found in non-isopod crustacean species. Here, we report Wolbachia infection in fourteen new crustacean species. Our results extend the range of Wolbachia infections in terrestrial isopods and amphipods (class Malacostraca). We report the occurrence of two different Wolbachia strains in two host species (a terrestrial isopod and an amphipod). Moreover, the discovery of Wolbachia in the goose barnacle Lepas anatifera (subclass Thecostraca) establishes Wolbachia infection in class Maxillopoda. The new bacterial strains are closely related to B-supergroup Wolbachia strains previously reported from crustacean hosts. Our results suggest that Wolbachia infection may be much more widespread in crustaceans than previously thought. The presence of related Wolbachia strains in highly divergent crustacean hosts suggests that Wolbachia endosymbionts can naturally adapt to a wide range of crustacean hosts. Given the ability of isopod Wolbachia strains to induce feminization of genetic males or cytoplasmic incompatibility, we speculate that manipulation of crustacean-borne Wolbachia bacteria might represent potential tools for controlling crustacean species of commercial interest and crustacean or insect disease vectors.
Wolbachia; endosymbiont; Crustacea; Maxillopoda; terrestrial isopod; distribution; adaptation
The endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia pipientis infects a wide range of arthropods, in which it induces a variety of reproductive phenotypes, including cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), parthenogenesis, male killing, and reversal of genetic sex determination. The recent sequencing and annotation of the first Wolbachia genome revealed an unusually high number of genes encoding ankyrin domain (ANK) repeats. These ANK genes are likely to be important in mediating the Wolbachia-host interaction. In this work we determined the distribution and expression of the different ANK genes found in the sequenced Wolbachia wMel genome in nine Wolbachia strains that induce different phenotypic effects in their hosts. A comparison of the ANK genes of wMel and the non-CI-inducing wAu Wolbachia strain revealed significant differences between the strains. This was reflected in sequence variability in shared genes that could result in alterations in the encoded proteins, such as motif deletions, amino acid insertions, and in some cases disruptions due to insertion of transposable elements and premature stops. In addition, one wMel ANK gene, which is part of an operon, was absent in the wAu genome. These variations are likely to affect the affinity, function, and cellular location of the predicted proteins encoded by these genes.
Wolbachia are maternally inherited, intracellular, alpha proteobacteria that infect a wide range of arthropods. They cause three kinds of reproductive alterations in their hosts: cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis and feminization. There have been many studies of the distribution of Wolbachia in arthropods, but very few crustacean species are known to be infected. We investigated the prevalence of Wolbachia in 85 species from five crustacean orders. Twenty-two isopod species were found to carry these bacteria. The bacteria were found mainly in terrestrial species, suggesting that Wolbachia came from a continental environment. The evolutionary relationships between these Wolbachia strains were determined by sequencing bacterial genes and by interspecific transfers. All the bacteria associated with isopods belonged to the Wolbachia B group, based on 16S rDNA sequence data. All the terrestrial isopod symbionts in this group except one formed an independent clade. The results of interspecific transfers show evidence of specialization of Wolbachia symbionts to their isopod hosts. They also suggest that host species plays a more important role than bacterial phylogeny in determining the phenotype induced by Wolbachia infection.
Wolbachia are rickettsial intracellular symbionts of arthropods and nematodes. In arthropods, they act as selfish genetic elements and manipulate host reproduction, including sex-ratio distortion and cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). Previous studies showed that infection of feminizing Wolbachia and CI Wolbachia sympatrically occurred in the butterfly Eurema hecabe. We demonstrate that feminization-infecting individuals can rescue sperm modified by CI-infecting males. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that feminized individuals are infected with two distinct Wolbachia strains: one is shared with CI-inducing matrilines, and the other is only found in feminized matrilines. Therefore, the simultaneous double manipulation, CI rescue and feminization, is caused by different Wolbachia strains in feminized individuals, not by a single Wolbachia with two functions. This is the first finding of double infection of Wolbachia with different reproductive manipulations.
Wolbachia are well known as bacterial symbionts of arthropods, where they are reproductive parasites, but have also been described from nematode hosts, where the symbiotic interaction has features of mutualism. The majority of arthropod Wolbachia belong to clades A and B, while nematode Wolbachia mostly belong to clades C and D, but these relationships have been based on analysis of a small number of genes. To investigate the evolution and relationships of Wolbachia symbionts we have sequenced over 70 kb of the genome of wOvo, a Wolbachia from the human-parasitic nematode Onchocerca volvulus, and compared the genes identified to orthologues in other sequenced Wolbachia genomes. In comparisons of conserved local synteny, we find that wBm, from the nematode Brugia malayi, and wMel, from Drosophila melanogaster, are more similar to each other than either is to wOvo. Phylogenetic analysis of the protein-coding and ribosomal RNA genes on the sequenced fragments supports reciprocal monophyly of nematode and arthropod Wolbachia. The nematode Wolbachia did not arise from within the A clade of arthropod Wolbachia, and the root of the Wolbachia clade lies between the nematode and arthropod symbionts. Using the wOvo sequence, we identified a lateral transfer event whereby segments of the Wolbachia genome were inserted into the Onchocerca nuclear genome. This event predated the separation of the human parasite O. volvulus from its cattle-parasitic sister species, O. ochengi. The long association between filarial nematodes and Wolbachia symbionts may permit more frequent genetic exchange between their genomes.
Filarial nematode worms cause hundreds of millions of cases of disease in humans worldwide. As part of efforts to identify new drug targets in these parasites, the Filarial Genome Project rediscovered that these worms carry within them a symbiotic bacterium, which may be a novel target. Fenn et al. investigated the relationships of these bacteria, from the genus Wolbachia, to those previously identified in arthropods using a new dataset of genome sequence data from the human parasite Onchocerca volvulus. O. volvulus causes river blindness in West Africa. The authors found that the Wolbachia strains found in nematodes are more closely related to each other than they are to the Wolbachia in insects, suggesting that the nematodes and their bacterial partners have been coevolving for some considerable evolutionary time and may indeed be good targets. In addition, the authors identified a fragment of Wolbachia DNA that was inserted in the genome of its nematode host and has subsequently degenerated. The insertion occurred before O. volvulus diverged from another nematode species, O. ochengi, found in cattle.
The maternally inherited α-Proteobacteria Wolbachia pipientis is an obligate endosymbiont of nematodes and arthropods, in which they induce a variety of reproductive alterations, including Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (CI) and feminization. The genome of the feminizing wVulC Wolbachia strain harboured by the isopod Armadillidium vulgare has been sequenced and is now at the final assembly step. It contains an unusually high number of ankyrin motif-containing genes, two of which are homologous to the phage-related pk1 and pk2 genes thought to contribute to the CI phenotype in Culex pipiens. These genes encode putative bacterial effectors mediating Wolbachia-host protein-protein interactions via their ankyrin motifs.
To test whether these Wolbachia homologs are potentially involved in altering terrestrial isopod reproduction, we determined the distribution and expression of both pk1 and pk2 genes in the 3 Wolbachia strains that induce CI and in 5 inducing feminization of their isopod hosts. Aside from the genes being highly conserved, we found a substantial copy number variation among strains, and that is linked to prophage diversity. Transcriptional analyses revealed expression of one pk2 allele (pk2b2) only in the feminizing Wolbachia strains of isopods.
These results reveal the need to investigate the functions of Wolbachia ankyrin gene products, in particular those of Pk2, and their host targets with respect to host sex manipulation.
The outcome of microbial infection of insects is dependent not only on interactions between the host and pathogen, but also on the interactions between microbes that co-infect the host. Recently the maternally inherited endosymbiotic bacteria Wolbachia has been shown to protect insects from a range of microbial and eukaryotic pathogens. Mosquitoes experimentally infected with Wolbachia have upregulated immune responses and are protected from a number of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, Plasmodium and filarial nematodes. It has been hypothesised that immune upregulation underpins Wolbachia-mediated protection. Drosophila is a strong model for understanding host-Wolbachia-pathogen interactions. Wolbachia-mediated antiviral protection in Drosophila has been demonstrated for a number of different Wolbachia strains. In this study we investigate whether Wolbachia-infected flies are also protected against pathogenic bacteria. Drosophila simulans lines infected with five different Wolbachia strains were challenged with the pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01, Serratia marcescens and Erwinia carotovora and mortality compared to paired lines without Wolbachia. No difference in mortality was observed in the flies with or without Wolbachia. Similarly no antibacterial protection was observed for D. melanogaster infected with Wolbachia. Interestingly, D. melanogaster Oregon RC flies which are naturally infected with Wolbachia showed no upregulation of the antibacterial immune genes TepIV, Defensin, Diptericin B, PGRP-SD, Cecropin A1 and Attacin D compared to paired flies without Wolbachia. Taken together these results indicate that Wolbachia-mediated antibacterial protection is not ubiquitous in insects and furthermore that the mechanisms of antibacterial and antiviral protection are independent. We suggest that the immune priming and antibacterial protection observed in Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes may be a consequence of the recent artificial introduction of the symbiont into insects that normally do not carry Wolbachia and that antibacterial protection is unlikely to be found in insects carrying long-term Wolbachia infections.
Wolbachia are endosymbiotic bacteria that commonly infect numerous arthropods. Despite their broad taxonomic distribution, the transmission patterns of these bacteria within and among host species are not well understood. We sequenced a portion of the wsp gene from the Wolbachia genome infecting 138 individuals from eleven geographically distributed native populations of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. We then compared these wsp sequence data to patterns of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation of both infected and uninfected host individuals to infer the transmission patterns of Wolbachia in S. invicta.
Three different Wolbachia (wsp) variants occur within S. invicta, all of which are identical to previously described strains in fire ants. A comparison of the distribution of Wolbachia variants within S. invicta to a phylogeny of mtDNA haplotypes suggests S. invicta has acquired Wolbachia infections on at least three independent occasions. One common Wolbachia variant in S. invicta (wSinvictaB) is associated with two divergent mtDNA haplotype clades. Further, within each of these clades, Wolbachia-infected and uninfected individuals possess virtually identical subsets of mtDNA haplotypes, including both putative derived and ancestral mtDNA haplotypes. The same pattern also holds for wSinvictaA, where at least one and as many as three invasions into S. invicta have occurred. These data suggest that the initial invasions of Wolbachia into host ant populations may be relatively ancient and have been followed by multiple secondary losses of Wolbachia in different infected lineages over time. Finally, our data also provide additional insights into the factors responsible for previously reported variation in Wolbachia prevalence among S. invicta populations.
The history of Wolbachia infections in S. invicta is rather complex and involves multiple invasions or horizontal transmission events of Wolbachia into this species. Although these Wolbachia infections apparently have been present for relatively long time periods, these data clearly indicate that Wolbachia infections frequently have been secondarily lost within different lineages. Importantly, the uncoupled transmission of the Wolbachia and mtDNA genomes suggests that the presumed effects of Wolbachia on mtDNA evolution within S. invicta are less severe than originally predicted. Thus, the common concern that use of mtDNA markers for studying the evolutionary history of insects is confounded by maternally inherited endosymbionts such as Wolbachia may be somewhat unwarranted in the case of S. invicta.
Many filarial nematodes harbour Wolbachia endobacteria. These endobacteria are transmitted vertically from one generation to the next. In several filarial species that have been studied to date they are obligatory symbionts of their hosts. Elimination of the endobacteria by antibiotics interrupts the embryogenesis and hence the production of microfilariae. The medical implication of this being that the use of doxycycline for the treatment of human onchocerciasis and bancroftian filariasis leads to elimination of the Wolbachia and hence sterilisation of the female worms. Wolbachia play a role in the immunopathology of patients and may contribute to side effects seen after antifilarial chemotherapy. In several studies Wolbachia were not observed in Loa loa. Since these results have been doubted, and because of the medical significance, several independent methods were applied to search for Wolbachia in L. loa.
Loa loa and Onchocerca volvulus were studied by electron microscopy, histology with silver staining, and immunohistology using antibodies against WSP, Wolbachia aspartate aminotransferase, and heat shock protein 60. The results achieved with L. loa and O. volvulus were compared. Searching for Wolbachia, genes were amplified by PCR coding for the bacterial 16S rDNA, the FTSZ cell division protein, and WSP.
No Wolbachia endobacteria were discovered by immunohistology in 13 male and 14 female L. loa worms and in numerous L. loa microfilariae. In contrast, endobacteria were found in large numbers in O. volvulus and 14 other filaria species. No intracellular bacteria were seen in electron micrographs of oocytes and young morulae of L. loa in contrast to O. volvulus. In agreement with these results, Wolbachia DNA was not detected by PCR in three male and six female L. loa worms and in two microfilariae samples of L. loa.
Loa loa do not harbour obligatory symbiotic Wolbachia endobacteria in essential numbers to enable their efficient vertical transmission or to play a role in production of microfilariae. Exclusively, the filariae cause the immunopathology of loiasis is patients and the adverse side effects after antifilarial chemotherapy. Doxycycline cannot be used to cure loiais but it probably does not represent a risk for L. loa patients when administered to patients with co-infections of onchocerciasis.
Wolbachia are a group of intracellular inherited bacteria that infect a wide range of arthropods. They are associated with a number of different reproductive phenotypes in their hosts, such as cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis and feminization. While it is known that the bacterial strains responsible for these different host phenotypes form a single clade within the alpha-Proteobacteria, until now it has not been possible to resolve the evolutionary relationships between different Wolbachia strains. To address this issue we have cloned and sequenced a gene encoding a surface protein of Wolbachia (wsp) from a representative sample of 28 Wolbachia strains. The sequences from this gene were highly variable and could be used to resolve the phylogenetic relationships of different Wolbachia strains. Based on the sequence of the wsp gene from different Wolbachia isolates we propose that the Wolbachia pipientis clade be initially divided into 12 groups. As more sequence information becomes available we expect the number of such groups to increase. In addition, we present a method of Wolbachia classification based on the use of group-specific wsp polymerase chain reaction (PGR) primers which will allow Wolbachia isolates to be typed without the need to clone and sequence individual Wolbachia genes. This system should facilitate future studies investigating the distribution and biology of Wolbachia strains from large samples of different host species.
Wolbachia are endosymbiotic bacteria that commonly infect arthropods, inducing certain phenotypes in their hosts. So far, no endemic South American species of terrestrial isopods have been investigated for Wolbachia infection. In this work, populations from two species of Balloniscus (B. sellowii and B. glaber) were studied through a diagnostic PCR assay. Fifteen new Wolbachia 16S rDNA sequences were detected. Wolbachia found in both species were generally specific to one population, and five populations hosted two different Wolbachia 16S rDNA sequences. Prevalence was higher in B. glaber than in B. sellowii, but uninfected populations could be found in both species. Wolbachia strains from B. sellowii had a higher genetic variation than those isolated from B. glaber. AMOVA analyses showed that most of the genetic variance was distributed among populations of each species rather than between species, and the phylogenetic analysis suggested that Wolbachia strains from Balloniscus cluster within Supergroup B, but do not form a single monophyletic clade, suggesting multiple infections for this group. Our results highlight the importance of studying Wolbachia prevalence and genetic diversity in Neotropical species and suggest that South American arthropods may harbor a great number of diverse strains, providing an interesting model to investigate the evolution of Wolbachia and its hosts.
Wolbachia; prevalence; diversity; South America; Oniscidea
Wolbachia are maternally inherited endosymbiotic bacteria that infect many arthropod species and may induce cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) resulting in abortive embryonic development. Among all the described host species, mosquitoes of the Culex pipiens complex display the highest variability of CI crossing types. Paradoxically, searches for polymorphism in Wolbachia infecting strains and field populations hitherto failed or produced very few markers. Here, we show that an abundant source of the long-sought polymorphism lies in WO prophage sequences present in multiple copies dispersed in the genome of Wolbachia infecting C. pipiens (wPip). We identified up to 66 different Wolbachia variants in C. pipiens strains and field populations and no occurrence of superinfection was observed. At least 49 different Wolbachia occurred in Southern Europe C. pipiens populations, and up to 10 different Wolbachia were even detected in a single population. This is in sharp contrast with North African and Cretan samples, which exhibited only six variants. The WO polymorphism appeared stable over time, and was exclusively transferred maternally. Interestingly, we found that the CI pattern previously described correlates with the variability of Gp15, a prophage protein similar to a bacterial virulence protein. WO prophage sequences thus represent variable markers that now open routes for approaching the molecular basis of CI, the host effects, the structure and dynamics of Wolbachia populations.
Wolbachia; Culex pipiens; cytoplasmic incompatibility; prophage; WO
The majority of filarial nematodes harbour Wolbachia endobacteria, including the major pathogenic species in humans, Onchocerca volvulus, Brugia malayi and Wuchereria bancrofti. These obligate endosymbionts have never been demonstrated unequivocally in any non-filariid nematode. However, a recent report described the detection by PCR of Wolbachia in the metastrongylid nematode, Angiostrongylus cantonensis (rat lungworm), a leading cause of eosinophilic meningitis in humans. To address the intriguing possibility of Wolbachia infection in nematode species distinct from the Family Onchocercidae, we used both PCR and immunohistochemistry to screen samples of A. cantonensis and A. costaricensis for the presence of this endosymbiont. We were unable to detect Wolbachia in either species using these methodologies. In addition, bioinformatic and phylogenetic analyses of the Wolbachia gene sequences reported previously from A. cantonensis indicate that they most likely result from contamination with DNA from arthropods and filarial nematodes. This study demonstrates the need for caution in relying solely on PCR for identification of new endosymbiont strains from invertebrate DNA samples.
Wolbachia symbionts are responsible for various alterations in host reproduction. The effects of the host genome on endosymbiont levels have often been suggested, but rarely described. Here, we show that Wolbachia density is strongly modified by the presence of insecticide-resistant genes in the common house mosquito, Culex pipiens. The Wolbachia density was estimated using a real-time quantitative PCR assay. Strains harbouring different genes conferring resistance were more infected than a susceptible strain with the same genetic background. We show that this interaction also operates in natural populations. We propose that mosquitoes may control Wolbachia density less efficiently when they carry an insecticide-resistant gene, i.e. when they suffer from a physiological resistance cost.
Infection density is among the most important factors for understanding the biological effects of Wolbachia and other endosymbionts on their hosts. To gain insight into the mechanisms of infection density regulation, we investigated the adzuki bean beetles Callosobruchus chinensis and their Wolbachia endosymbionts. Double-infected, single-infected and uninfected host strains with controlled nuclear genetic backgrounds were generated by introgression, and infection densities in these strains were evaluated by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction technique. Our study revealed previously unknown aspects of Wolbachia density regulation: (i) the identification of intra-specific host genotypes that affect Wolbachia density differently and (ii) the suppression of Wolbachia density by co-infecting Wolbachia strains. These findings shed new light on symbiont–symbiont and host–symbiont interactions in the Wolbachia–insect endosymbiosis and strongly suggest that Wolbachia density is determined through a complex interaction between host genotype, symbiont genotype and other factors.
Wolbachia; multiple infection; symbiont–symbiont interaction; host–symbiont interaction; infection density
The majority of filarial nematode species are host to Wolbachia bacterial endosymbionts, although a few including Acanthocheilonema viteae, Onchocerca flexuosa and Setaria equina have been shown to be free of infection. Comparisons of species with and without symbionts can provide important information on the role of Wolbachia symbiosis in the biology of the nematode hosts and the contribution of the bacteria to the development of disease. Previous studies by electron microscopy and PCR have failed to detect intracellular bacterial infection in Loa loa. Here we use molecular and immunohistological techniques to confirm this finding.
We have used a combination of PCR amplification of bacterial genes (16S ribosomal DNA [rDNA], ftsZ and Wolbachia surface protein [WSP]) on samples of L. loa adults, third-stage larvae (L3) and microfilariae (mf) and immunohistology on L. loa adults and mf derived from human volunteers to determine the presence or absence of Wolbachia endosymbionts. Samples used in the PCR analysis included 5 adult female worms, 4 adult male worms, 5 mf samples and 2 samples of L3. The quality and purity of nematode DNA was tested by PCR amplification of nematode 5S rDNA and with diagnostic primers from the target species and used to confirm the absence of contamination from Onchocerca sp., Mansonella perstans, M. streptocerca and Wuchereria bancrofti. Immunohistology was carried out by light and electron microscopy on L. loa adults and mf and sections were probed with rabbit antibodies raised to recombinant Brugia malayi Wolbachia WSP. Samples from nematodes known to be infected with Wolbachia (O. volvulus, O. ochengi, Litomosoides sigmodontis and B. malayi) were used as positive controls and A. viteae as a negative control.
Single PCR analysis using primer sets for the bacterial genes 16S rDNA, ftsZ, and WSP were negative for all DNA samples from L. loa. Positive PCR reactions were obtained from DNA samples derived from species known to be infected with Wolbachia, which confirmed the suitability of the primers and PCR conditions. The quality and purity of nematode DNA samples was verified by PCR amplification of 5S rDNA and with nematode diagnostic primers. Additional analysis by 'long PCR' failed to produce any further evidence for Wolbachia symbiosis. Immunohistology of L. loa adults and mf confirmed the results of the PCR with no evidence for Wolbachia symbiosis.
DNA analysis and immunohistology provided no evidence for Wolbachia symbiosis in L. loa.
Maternally inherited microorganisms can influence the mtDNA pattern of variation in hosts. This influence is driven by selection among symbionts and can cause the frequency of mitochondrial variants in the population to eventually increase or decrease. Wolbachia infection is common and widespread in Drosophila melanogaster populations. We compared genetic variability of D. melanogaster mitotypes with Wolbachia genotypes among isofemale lines associated with different geographic locations and time intervals to study coevolution of the mtDNA and Wolbachia. Phylogenetic analysis of D. melanogaster mtDNA revealed two clades diverged in Africa, each associated with one of the two Wolbachia genotype groups. No evidence of horizontal transmission of Wolbachia between maternal lineages has been found. All the mtDNA variants that occur in infected isofemale lines are found in uninfected isofemale lines and vice versa, which is indicative of a recent loss of infection from some maternal fly lineages and confirms a significant role of Wolbachia in the D. melanogaster mtDNA pattern of variation. Finally, we present a comparative analysis of biogeographic distribution of D. melanogaster mitotypes all over the world.
Wolbachia are endosymbiotic bacteria that are frequently found in arthropods and nematodes. These maternally inherited bacteria manipulate host reproduction by several mechanisms including cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). CI is the most common phenotype induced by Wolbachia and results in the developmental arrest of embryos derived from crosses between Wolbachia-infected males and uninfected females. Although the molecular mechanisms of CI are currently unknown, several studies suggest that host sperm is modified by Wolbachia during spermatogenesis.
We compared the gene expression of Drosophila melanogaster larval testes with and without the wMel strain of Wolbachia to identify candidate genes that could be involved in the interaction between Wolbachia and the insect host. Microarray, quantitative RT-PCR and in situ hybridization analyses were carried out on D. melanogaster larval testes to determine the effect of Wolbachia infection on host gene expression. A total of 296 genes were identified by microarray analysis to have at least a 1.5 fold change [q-value < 5%] in expression. When comparing Wolbachia-infected flies to uninfected flies, 167 genes were up-regulated and 129 genes down-regulated. Differential expression of genes related to metabolism, immunity, reproduction and other functions were observed. Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) confirmed 12 genes are differentially expressed in the testes of the 3rd instar larvae of Wolbachia-infected and uninfected flies. In situ hybridization demonstrated that Wolbachia infection changes the expression of several genes putatively associated with spermatogenesis including JH induced protein-26 and Mst84Db, or involved in immune (kenny) or metabolism (CG4988-RA).
Wolbachia change the gene expression of 296 genes in the larval testes of D. melanogaster including genes related to metabolism, immunity and reproduction. Interestingly, most of the genes putatively involved in immunity were up-regulated in the presence of Wolbachia. In contrast, most of the genes putatively associated with reproduction (especially spermatogenesis) were down-regulated in the presence of Wolbachia. These results suggest Wolbachia may activate the immune pathway but inhibit spermatogenesis. Our data provide a significant panel of candidate genes that may be involved in the interaction between Wolbachia and their insect hosts. This forms a basis to help elucidate the underlying mechanisms of Wolbachia-induced CI in Drosophila and the influence of Wolbachia on spermatogenesis.
Wolbachia are maternally inherited intracellular bacteria that infect a wide range of arthropods and nematodes and are associated with various reproductive abnormalities in their hosts. The infection by Wolbachia of the psocid, Liposcelis tricolor (Psocoptera: Liposcelididae), was investigated using long PCR amplification of the wsp gene that codes for a Wolbachia surface protein. The results showed that L. tricolor was positive for Wolbachia. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the Wolbachia found in L. tricolor was related to the B-group. Wolbachia infection in L. tricolor could be removed through antibiotic treatment. The results of crosses including ♀W+ x ♂ W+, ♀ W− x ♂W+, ♀ W+ x ♂ W−, and ♀W− x ♂ W−, suggested that the removal of Wolbachia resulted in lower egg production by L. tricolor. The mean embryonic mortality of offspring produced by L. tricolor without Wolbachia was significantly higher than that of control.
endosymbionts; molecular detection; antibiotic treatment
Wolbachia as an endosymbiont is widespread in insects and other arthropods and is best known for reproductive manipulations of the host. Recently, it has been shown that wMelpop and wMel strains of Wolbachia inhibit the replication of several RNA viruses, including dengue virus, and other vector-borne pathogens (e.g., Plasmodium and filarial nematodes) in mosquitoes, providing an alternative approach to limit the transmission of vector-borne pathogens. In this study, we tested the effect of Wolbachia on the replication of West Nile Virus (WNV). Surprisingly, accumulation of the genomic RNA of WNV for all three strains of WNV tested (New York 99, Kunjin, and New South Wales) was enhanced in Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti cells (Aag2). However, the amount of secreted virus was significantly reduced in the presence of Wolbachia. Intrathoracic injections showed that replication of WNV in A. aegypti mosquitoes infected with wMel strain of Wolbachia was not inhibited, whereas wMelPop strain of Wolbachia significantly reduced the replication of WNV in mosquitoes. Further, when wMelPop mosquitoes were orally fed with WNV, virus infection, transmission, and dissemination rates were very low in Wolbachia-free mosquitoes and were completely inhibited in the presence of Wolbachia. The results suggest that (i) despite the enhancement of viral genomic RNA replication in the Wolbachia-infected cell line the production of secreted virus was significantly inhibited, (ii) the antiviral effect in intrathoracically infected mosquitoes depends on the strain of Wolbachia, and (iii) replication of the virus in orally fed mosquitoes was completely inhibited in wMelPop strain of Wolbachia.
Wolbachia infections confer protection for their insect hosts against a range of pathogens including bacteria, viruses, nematodes and the malaria parasite. A single mechanism that might explain this broad-based pathogen protection is immune priming, in which the presence of the symbiont upregulates the basal immune response, preparing the insect to defend against subsequent pathogen infection. A study that compared natural Wolbachia infections in Drosophila melanogaster with the mosquito vector Aedes aegypti artificially transinfected with the same strains has suggested that innate immune priming may only occur in recent host-Wolbachia associations. This same study also revealed that while immune priming may play a role in viral protection it cannot explain the entirety of the effect.
Here we assess whether the level of innate immune priming induced by different Wolbachia strains in A. aegypti is correlated with the degree of protection conferred against bacterial pathogens. We show that Wolbachia strains wMel and wMelPop, currently being tested for field release for dengue biocontrol, differ in their protective abilities. The wMelPop strain provides stronger, more broad-based protection than wMel, and this is likely explained by both the higher induction of immune gene expression and the strain-specific activation of particular genes. We also show that Wolbachia densities themselves decline during pathogen infection, likely as a result of the immune induction.
This work shows a correlation between innate immune priming and bacterial protection phenotypes. The ability of the Toll pathway, melanisation and antimicrobial peptides to enhance viral protection or to provide the basis of malaria protection should be further explored in the context of this two-strain comparison. This work raises the questions of whether Wolbachia may improve the ability of wild mosquitoes to survive pathogen infection or alter the natural composition of gut flora, and thus have broader consequences for host fitness.
Wolbachia is a commonly occurring bacterium or symbiont that lives inside the cells of insects. Recently, Wolbachia was artificially introduced into the mosquito vector dengue virus that was naturally Wolbachia-free. Wolbachia limits the growth of a range of pathogens transmitted to humans, including viruses, bacteria and parasites inside the mosquito. This “pathogen protection” forms the basis of field trials to determine if releasing Wolbachia into wild mosquito populations could reduce dengue virus incidence in humans. The basis of pathogen protection is not fully understood. Previous work suggests that the symbiont may activate the basal immune response, preparing the insect to defend itself against subsequent pathogen infection. Here we infect mosquitoes harbouring Wolbachia with a range of bacterial pathogens as a means to understand the nature of protection. We show that different Wolbachia strains vary in their ability to limit pathogen growth and that this correlates with the degree to which the Wolbachia activates the host immune response. These findings may assist with Wolbachia strain selection for future open field release and raise the question whether Wolbachia might provide a fitness advantage to mosquitoes in the wild by limiting their death due to bacterial infection.
Although closely related, the alpha-proteobacteria Wolbachia and the Rickettsiacae (Rickettsia and Ehrlichia), employ different evolutionary life history strategies. Wolbachia are obligate endocellular symbionts that infect an extraordinary host range and, in contrast to the infectious and pathogenic Rickettsia and Ehrlichia, profoundly influence host reproductive biology.
Phylogenies of the Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Wolbachia were independently inferred from 16S rDNA sequences and GroEL amino acid sequences. Topologies inferred from both sets of sequence data were consistent with one another, and both indicate the genus Wolbachia shared a common ancestor most recently with Ehrlichia. These two genera are a sister group to the genus Rickettsia. Mapping biological properties onto this phylogeny reveals that manipulation of host reproduction, characteristic of Wolbachia strains, is a derived characteristic. This evolutionary novelty is accompanied by the loss of the ability to infect vertebrate hosts.
Because of the contrasting transmission strategies employed by each, Wolbachia is expected to maximize efficiency of vertical transmission, while Ehrlichia and Rickettsia will optimize horizontal transfer of infection. Wolbachia manipulation of host reproduction could thus be viewed as strategy employed by this bacterium to foster its own propagation via vertical transmission.