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Heredity (Edinb). 2007 Sep;99(3):278-87. Epub 2007 May 23.

Bidirectional incompatibility among divergent Wolbachia and incompatibility level differences among closely related Wolbachia in Nasonia.

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Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, The Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.


Most insect groups harbor obligate bacterial symbionts from the alpha-proteobacterial genus Wolbachia. These bacteria alter insect reproduction in ways that enhance their cytoplasmic transmission. One of the most common alterations is cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) - a post-fertilization modification of the paternal genome that renders embryos inviable or unable to complete diploid development in crosses between infected males and uninfected females or infected females harboring a different strain. The parasitic wasp species complex Nasonia (N. vitripennis, N. longicornis and N. giraulti) harbor at least six different Wolbachia that cause CI. Each species have double infections with a representative from both the A and B Wolbachia subgroups. CI relationships of the A and B Wolbachia of N. longicornis with those of N. giraulti and N. vitripennis are investigated here. We demonstrate that all pairwise crosses between the divergent A strains are bidirectionally incompatible. We were unable to characterize incompatibility between the B Wolbachia, but we establish that the B strain of N. longicornis induces no or very weak CI in comparison to the closely related B strain in N. giraulti that expresses complete CI. Taken together with previous studies, we show that independent acquisition of divergent A Wolbachia has resulted in three mutually incompatible strains, whereas codivergence of B Wolbachia in N. longicornis and N. giraulti is associated with differences in CI level. Understanding the diversity and evolution of new incompatibility strains will contribute to a fuller understanding of Wolbachia invasion dynamics and Wolbachia-assisted speciation in certain groups of insects.

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