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Microb Ecol. 2006 Apr;51(3):294-301. Epub 2006 Apr 6.

Closely related Wolbachia strains within the pumpkin arthropod community and the potential for horizontal transmission via the plant.

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Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rama VI Road, Bangkok, 10400, Thailand.


Phylogenetic studies have implicated frequent horizontal transmission of Wolbachia among arthropod host lineages. However, the ecological routes for such lateral transfer are poorly known. We surveyed the species of two arthropod communities, one on pumpkin and the other on loofah plants, for Wolbachia, constructed wsp gene phylogenies of those Wolbachia strains found to infect community members, and established ecological links among infected members. Four taxonomically diverse insects in the pumpkin arthropod community contained very closely related Wolbachia wsp sequences (<1.5% divergence by Kimura-2-parameter distances). These insects, namely, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci, the planthopper Nisia nervosa, the flea beetle Phyllotreta sp., and the fleahopper Halticus minutus, were all collected from pumpkin leaves. They were ecologically linked through feeding on the same leaf substrate. Unlike other infected leaf insects, the whitefly population appeared to have a permanent breeding relationship with pumpkin plants, and high and stable, but not fixed, monthly Wolbachia infection rates. Our findings suggest potential roles for the plant in Wolbachia transmission and for whiteflies in being an infection source for other pumpkin leaf-feeding insects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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