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J Invertebr Pathol. 2013 Mar;112 Suppl:S104-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2012.03.024. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Global Wolbachia prevalence, titer fluctuations and their potential of causing cytoplasmic incompatibilities in tsetse flies and hybrids of Glossina morsitans subgroup species.

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  • 1Laboratories of Genome Dynamics, Department Cell and Developmental Biology, Center of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


We demonstrate the high applicability of a novel VNTR-based (Variable-Number-Tandem-Repeat) molecular screening tool for fingerprinting Wolbachia-infections in tsetse flies. The VNTR-141 locus provides reliable and concise differentiation between Wolbachia strains deriving from Glossina morsitans morsitans, Glossina morsitans centralis, and Glossina brevipalpis. Moreover, we show that certain Wolbachia-infections in Glossina spp. are capable of escaping standard PCR screening methods by 'hiding' as low-titer infections below the detection threshold. By applying a highly sensitive PCR-blot technique to our Glossina specimen, we were able to enhance the symbiont detection limit substantially and, consequently, trace unequivocally Wolbachia-infections at high prevalence in laboratory-reared G. swynnertoni individuals. To our knowledge, Wolbachia-persistence was reported exclusively for field-collected samples, and at low prevalence only. Finally, we highlight the substantially higher Wolbachia titer levels found in hybrid Glossina compared to non-hybrid hosts and the possible impact of these titers on hybrid host fitness that potentially trigger incipient speciation in tsetse flies.

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