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PLoS One. 2008 Sep 26;3(9):e3286. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003286.

Wolbachia mediate variation of host immunocompetence.

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  • 1Université de Poitiers, Laboratoire Ecologie, Evolution, Symbiose, UMR CNRS 6556, Poitiers, France.



After decades during which endosymbionts were considered as silent in their hosts, in particular concerning the immune system, recent studies have revealed the contrary. In the present paper, we addressed the effect of Wolbachia, the most prevalent endosymbiont in arthropods, on host immunocompetence. To this end, we chose the A. vulgare-Wolbachia symbiosis as a model system because it leads to compare consequences of two Wolbachia strains (wVulC and wVulM) on hosts from the same population. Moreover, A. vulgare is the only host-species in which Wolbachia have been directly observed within haemocytes which are responsible for both humoral and cellular immune responses.


We sampled gravid females from the same population that were either asymbiotic, infected with wVulC, or infected with wVulM. The offspring from these females were tested and it was revealed that individuals harbouring wVulC exhibited: (i) lower haemocyte densities, (ii) more intense septicaemia in their haemolymph and (iii) a reduced lifespan as compared to individuals habouring wVulM or asymbiotic ones. Therefore, individuals in this population of A. vulgare appeared to suffer more from wVulC than from wVulM. Symbiotic titer and location in the haemocytes did not differ for the two Wolbachia strains showing that these two parameters were not responsible for differences observed in their extended phenotypes in A. vulgare.


The two Wolbachia strains infecting A. vulgare in the same population induced variation in immunocompetence and survival of their hosts. Such variation should highly influence the dynamics of this host-symbiont system. We propose in accordance with previous population genetic works, that wVulM is a local strain that has attenuated its virulence through a long term adaptation process towards local A. vulgare genotypes whereas wVulC, which is a widespread and invasive strain, is not locally adapted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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