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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040500. Epub 2012 Jul 11.

No effect of Wolbachia on resistance to intracellular infection by pathogenic bacteria in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


Multiple studies have shown that infection with the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia pipientis confers Drosophila melanogaster and other insects with resistance to infection by RNA viruses. Studies investigating whether Wolbachia infection induces the immune system or confers protection against secondary bacterial infection have not shown any effect. These studies, however, have emphasized resistance against extracellular pathogens. Since Wolbachia lives inside the host cell, we hypothesized that Wolbachia might confer resistance to pathogens that establish infection by invading host cells. We therefore tested whether Wolbachia-infected D. melanogaster are protected against infection by the intracellular pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella typhimurium, as well as the extracellular pathogenic bacterium Providencia rettgeri. We evaluated the ability of flies infected with Wolbachia to suppress secondary infection by pathogenic bacteria relative to genetically matched controls that had been cured of Wolbachia by treatment with tetracycline. We found no evidence that Wolbachia alters host ability to suppress proliferation of any of the three pathogenic bacteria. Our results indicate that Wolbachia-induced antiviral protection does not result from a generalized response to intracellular pathogens.

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