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Microb Ecol. 2008 Nov;56(4):733-41. doi: 10.1007/s00248-008-9392-9. Epub 2008 May 6.

Transfection of feminizing Wolbachia endosymbionts of the butterfly, Eurema hecabe, into the cell culture and various immature stages of the silkmoth, Bombyx mori.

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  • 1National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS), Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


Wolbachia are maternally inherited endosymbiotic bacteria of invertebrates that can manipulate the reproductive systems of their arthropod hosts in a variety of ways. To establish a useful model system for investigating the mechanism of Wolbachia-induced host feminization, we conducted the following series of experiments: (1) feminizing Wolbachia of the butterfly, Eurema hecabe, were transferred into cell cultures of the silkmoth, Bombyx mori, and (2) the transfected Wolbachia in cell cultures were inoculated into B. mori at four immature stages. Wolbachia were successfully transfected into the cell cultures and stably maintained for more than 1 year (>30 passages). However, none of the inoculated insects produced mature oocytes that were Wolbachia-positive. This finding was consistent with the fact that Wolbachia was not detected in individuals in subsequent generations. In contrast, Wolbachia were detected at relatively high frequencies (60-80% of individuals) in the somatic tissues of inoculated insects. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction revealed that the Wolbachia densities in the cultured cells were approximately tenfold higher than those in the native host E. hecabe. Among B. mori individuals inoculated at various developmental stages, those inoculated at early stages exhibited higher Wolbachia densities at the adult stage. The Wolbachia densities in individuals inoculated at the second-instar stage were comparable to those in intact E. hecabe. These results suggest that infection and/or proliferation of Wolbachia in germline cells are actively hindered by regulation in B. mori but feasible in somatic cells and that the Wolbachia densities in somatic tissues are regulated by the living host insects.

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