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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Oct;78(19):6922-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01727-12. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Antiviral protection and the importance of Wolbachia density and tissue tropism in Drosophila simulans.

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School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia.


Wolbachia, a maternally transmitted endosymbiont of insects, is increasingly being seen as an effective biological control agent that can interfere with transmission of pathogens, including dengue virus. However, the mechanism of antiviral protection is not well understood. The density and distribution of Wolbachia in host tissues have been implicated as contributing factors by previous studies with both mosquitoes and flies. Drosophila flies infected with five diverse strains of Wolbachia were screened for the ability to mediate antiviral protection. The three protective Wolbachia strains were more closely related and occurred at a higher density within whole flies than the two nonprotective Wolbachia strains. In this study, to further investigate the relationship between whole-fly Wolbachia density and the ability to mediate antiviral protection, tetracycline was used to decrease the abundance of the high-density, protective Wolbachia strain wAu prior to viral challenge. Antiviral protection was lost when the density of the protective Wolbachia strain was decreased to an abundance similar to that of nonprotective Wolbachia strains. We determined the Wolbachia density and distribution in tissues of the same five fly-Wolbachia combinations as used previously. The Wolbachia density within the head, gut, and Malpighian tubules correlated with the ability to mediate antiviral protection. These findings may facilitate the development of Wolbachia biological control strategies and help to predict host-Wolbachia pairings that may interfere with virus-induced pathology.

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