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Heredity (Edinb). 2002 Jun;88(6):444-9.

Feminizing Wolbachia in an insect, Ostrinia furnacalis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae).

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Laboratory of Applied Entomology, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Biology, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan.


Wolbachia, which forms a group of maternally inherited bacteria in arthropods, often cause reproduction alterations in their hosts, such as cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis, male-killing, hybrid breakdown and feminization. To date, Wolbachia-induced feminization has been reported only in isopods. Here we report that a Wolbachia strain feminizes an insect host, Ostrinia furnacalis. Among 79 wild females of O. furnacalis examined, Wolbachia infection was detected in 13 females. Twelve of the 13 infected females produced all-female progenies, and this trait was maternally inherited. Tetracycline treatment of thelygenic matrilines resulted in the production of all-male progenies. The present findings indicate that the Wolbachia infection induces feminization of genetic males in O. furnacalis. Differences in the Wolbachia-induced feminization in O. furnacalis and that in isopods are discussed along with the differences in sex determination mechanisms between insects and isopods. Phylogenetic analysis of the wsp gene sequence of Wolbachia suggests independent evolutionary origins for the Wolbachia-induced feminizations in O. furnacalis and in isopods. Our findings over 5 years suggest that the infection has been maintained at a low prevalence in the O. furnacalis population.

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