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PLoS One. 2010 Mar 16;5(3):e9700. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009700.

Wolbachia age-sex-specific density in Aedes albopictus: a host evolutionary response to cytoplasmic incompatibility?

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Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, CNRS UMR 5554, Université Montpellier 2, Montpellier, France.



Wolbachia bacteria have invaded many arthropod species by inducing Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (CI). These symbionts represent fascinating objects of study for evolutionary biologists, but also powerful potential biocontrol agents. Here, we assess the density dynamics of Wolbachia infections in males and females of the mosquito Aedes albopitcus, an important vector of human pathogens, and interpret the results within an evolutionary framework.


Wolbachia densities were measured in natural populations and in age controlled mosquitoes using quantitative PCR. We show that the density dynamics of the wAlbA Wolbachia strain infecting Aedes albopictus drastically differ between males and females, with a very rapid decay of infection in males only.


Theory predicts that Wolbachia and its hosts should cooperate to improve the transmission of infection to offspring, because only infected eggs are protected from the effects of CI. However, incompatible matings effectively lower the fertility of infected males, so that selection acting on the host genome should tend to reduce the expression of CI in males, for example, by reducing infection density in males before sexual maturation. The rapid decay of one Wolbachia infection in Aedes albopictus males, but not in females, is consistent with this prediction. We suggest that the commonly observed reduction in CI intensity with male age reflects a similar evolutionary process. Our results also highlight the importance of monitoring infection density dynamics in both males and females to assess the efficiency of Wolbachia-based control strategies.

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