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Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Dec;16(12):1711-23.

Phylogenetic evidence for horizontal transmission of Wolbachia in host-parasitoid associations.

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Unité Mixte de Recherche Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 5558, Université Claude Bernard, Villeurbanne, France.


Endosymbiotic Wolbachia infect a number of arthropod species in which they can affect the reproductive system. While maternally transmitted, unlike mitochondria their molecular phylogeny does not parallel that of their hosts. This strongly suggests horizontal transmission among species, the mechanisms of which remain unknown. Such transfers require intimate between-species relationships, and thus host-parasite associations are outstandingly appropriate for study. Here, we demonstrate that hymenopteran parasitoids of frugivorous Drosophila species are especially susceptible to Wolbachia infection. Of the five common European species, four proved to be infected; furthermore, multiple infections are common, with one species being doubly infected and two triply infected (first report). Phylogenetic statuses of the Wolbachia infecting the different species of the community have been studied using the gene wsp, a highly variable gene recently described. This study reveals exciting similarities between the Wolbachia variants found in parasitoids and their hosts. These arguments strongly support the hypothesis of frequent natural Wolbachia transfers into other species and open a new field for genetic exchanges among species, especially in host-parasitoid associations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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