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Proc Biol Sci. Dec 22, 1998; 265(1413): 2407–2413.
PMCID: PMC1689538

Phylogeny of Wolbachia in filarial nematodes.


Intracellular bacteria have been observed in various species of filarial nematodes (family Onchocercidae). The intracellular bacterium of the canine filaria Dirofilaria immitis has been shown to be closely related to Wolbachia, a rickettsia-like micro-organism that is widespread among arthropods. However, the relationships between endosymbionts of different filariae, and between these and the arthropod wolbachiae, appear not to have been studied. To address these issues we have examined ten species of filarial nematodes for the presence of Wolbachia. For nine species, all samples examined were PCR positive using primers specific for the ftsZ gene of Wolbachia. For one species, the examined samples were PCR negative. Sequences of the amplified ftsZ gene fragments of filarial wolbachiae fall into two clusters (C and D), which are distinct from the A and B clusters recognized for arthropod wolbachiae. These four lineages (A-D) are related in a star-like phylogeny, with higher nucleotide divergence observed between C and D wolbachiae than that observed between A and B wolbachiae. In addition, within each of the two lineages of filarial wolbachiae, the phylogeny of the symbionts is consistent with the host phylogeny. Thus, there is no evidence for recent Wolbachia transmission between arthropods and nematodes. Endosymbiont 16S ribosomal DNA sequences from a subset of filarial species support these findings.

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Selected References

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