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Proc Biol Sci. 2001 Dec 22;268(1485):2565-70.

Wolbachia-mediated sperm modification is dependent on the host genotype in Drosophila.

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Section of Vector Biology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Estimates of Wolbachia density in the eggs, testes and whole flies of drosophilid hosts have been unable to predict the lack of cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) expression in so-called mod(-) variants. Consequently, the working hypothesis has been that CI expression, although related to Wolbachia density, is also governed by unknown factors that are influenced by both host and bacterial genomes. Here, we compare the behaviour of the mod(-) over-replicating Wolbachia popcorn strain in its native Drosophila melanogaster host to the same strain transinfected into a novel host, namely Drosophila simulans. We report that (i) the popcorn strain is a close relative of other D. melanogaster infections, (ii) the mod(-) status of popcorn in D. melanogaster appears to result from its inability to colonize sperm bundles, (iii) popcorn is present in the bundles in D. simulans and induces strong CI expression, which demonstrates that the bacterial strain does not lack the genetic machinery for inducing CI and that there is host-species-specific control over Wolbachia tissue tropism, and (iv) infection of sperm bundles by the mod(-) D. simulans wCof strain indicates that there are several independent routes by which a strain can be a CI non-expressor.

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