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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 1999 Feb;29(2):153-60.

Wolbachia infections are distributed throughout insect somatic and germ line tissues.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Wolbachia are intracellular microorganisms that form maternally-inherited infections within numerous arthropod species. These bacteria have drawn much attention, due in part to the reproductive alterations that they induce in their hosts including cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), feminization and parthenogenesis. Although Wolbachia's presence within insect reproductive tissues has been well described, relatively few studies have examined the extent to which Wolbachia infects other tissues. We have examined Wolbachia tissue tropism in a number of representative insect hosts by western blot, dot blot hybridization and diagnostic PCR. Results from these studies indicate that Wolbachia are much more widely distributed in host tissues than previously appreciated. Furthermore, the distribution of Wolbachia in somatic tissues varied between different Wolbachia/host associations. Some associations showed Wolbachia disseminated throughout most tissues while others appeared to be much more restricted, being predominantly limited to the reproductive tissues. We discuss the relevance of these infection patterns to the evolution of Wolbachia/host symbioses and to potential applied uses of Wolbachia.

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