Over evolutionary time, Wolbachia has been repeatedly transferred between host species contributing to the widespread distribution of the symbiont in arthropods. For novel infections to be maintained, Wolbachia must infect the female germ line after being acquired by horizontal transfer. Although mechanistic examples of horizontal transfer exist, there is a poor understanding of factors that lead to successful vertical maintenance of the acquired infection. Using Anopheles mosquitoes (which are naturally uninfected by Wolbachia) we demonstrate that the native mosquito microbiota is a major barrier to vertical transmission of a horizontally acquired Wolbachia infection. After injection into adult Anopheles gambiae, some strains of Wolbachia invade the germ line, but are poorly transmitted to the next generation. In Anopheles stephensi, Wolbachia infection elicited massive blood meal-induced mortality, preventing development of progeny. Manipulation of the mosquito microbiota by antibiotic treatment resulted in perfect maternal transmission at significantly elevated titers of the wAlbB Wolbachia strain in A. gambiae, and alleviated blood meal-induced mortality in A. stephensi enabling production of Wolbachia-infected offspring. Microbiome analysis using high-throughput sequencing identified that the bacterium Asaia was significantly reduced by antibiotic treatment in both mosquito species. Supplementation of an antibiotic-resistant mutant of Asaia to antibiotic-treated mosquitoes completely inhibited Wolbachia transmission and partly contributed to blood meal-induced mortality. These data suggest that the components of the native mosquito microbiota can impede Wolbachia transmission in Anopheles. Incompatibility between the microbiota and Wolbachia may in part explain why some hosts are uninfected by this endosymbiont in nature.
Novel strategies are required to control mosquitoes and the pathogens they transmit. One attractive approach involves maternally inherited endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria. After artificial infection with Wolbachia, many mosquitoes become refractory to infection and transmission of diverse pathogens. We evaluated the effects of Wolbachia (wAlbB strain) on infection, dissemination and transmission of West Nile virus (WNV) in the naturally uninfected mosquito Culex tarsalis, which is an important WNV vector in North America. After inoculation into adult female mosquitoes, Wolbachia reached high titers and disseminated widely to numerous tissues including the head, thoracic flight muscles, fat body and ovarian follicles. Contrary to other systems, Wolbachia did not inhibit WNV in this mosquito. Rather, WNV infection rate was significantly higher in Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes compared to controls. Quantitative PCR of selected innate immune genes indicated that REL1 (the activator of the antiviral Toll immune pathway) was down regulated in Wolbachia-infected relative to control mosquitoes. This is the first observation of Wolbachia-induced enhancement of a human pathogen in mosquitoes, suggesting that caution should be applied before releasing Wolbachia-infected insects as part of a vector-borne disease control program.
Understanding pathogen/mosquito interactions is essential for developing novel strategies to control mosquito-borne diseases. Technical advances in reverse-genetics, such as RNA interference (RNAi), have facilitated elucidation of components of the mosquito immune system that are antagonistic to pathogen development, and host proteins essential for parasite development. Forward genetic approaches, however, are limited to generation of transgenic insects, and while powerful, mosquito transgenesis is a resource- and time-intensive technique that is not broadly available to most laboratories. The ability to easily "over-express" genes would enhance molecular studies in vector biology and expedite elucidation of pathogen-refractory genes without the need to make transgenic insects. We developed and characterized an efficient Anopheles gambiae densovirus (AgDNV) over-expression system for the major malaria vector Anopheles gambiae. High-levels of gene expression were detected at 3 days post-infection and increased over time, suggesting this is an effective system for gene induction. Strong expression was observed in the fat body and ovaries. We validated multiple short promoters for gene induction studies. Finally, we developed a polycistronic system to simultaneously express multiple genes of interest. This AgDNV-based toolset allows for consistent transduction of genes of interest and will be a powerful molecular tool for research in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes.
Very recently, the Asian malaria vector (Anopheles stephensi) was stably transinfected with the wAlbB strain of Wolbachia, inducing refractoriness to the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. However, conditions in the field can differ substantially from those in the laboratory. We use the rodent malaria P. yoelii, and somatically transinfected An. stephensi as a model system to investigate whether the transmission blocking potential of wAlbB is likely to be robust across different thermal environments. wAlbB reduced malaria parasite prevalence and oocyst intensity at 28°C. At 24°C there was no effect on prevalence but a marked increase in oocyst intensity. At 20°C, wAlbB had no effect on prevalence or intensity. Additionally, we identified a novel effect of wAlbB that resulted in reduced sporozoite development across temperatures, counterbalancing the oocyst enhancement at 24°C. Our results demonstrate complex effects of temperature on the Wolbachia-malaria interaction, and suggest the impacts of transinfection might vary across diverse environments.
Mosquito densoviruses (DNVs) are candidate agents for paratransgenic control of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. Unlike other mosquito DNVs, the Anopheles gambiae DNV (AgDNV) is non-pathogenic to larval mosquitoes. However, the cost of infection upon adults and the molecular mechanisms underpinning infection in the mosquito host are unknown. Using life table analysis, we show that AgDNV infection has minimal effects on An. gambiae survival (no significant effect in 2 replicates and a slight 2 day survival decrease in the third replicate). Using microarrays, we show that AgDNV has very minimal effect on the adult mosquito transcriptome, with only 4-15 genes differentially regulated depending on the statistical criteria imposed. The minimal impact upon global transcription provides some mechanistic understanding of lack of virus pathogenicity, suggesting a long co-evolutionary history that has shifted towards avirulence. From an applied standpoint, lack of strong induced fitness costs makes AgDNV an attractive agent for paratransgenic malaria control.
The most significant vector of tick-borne pathogens in the United States is Ixodes scapularis Say (the blacklegged tick). Previous studies have identified significant genetic, behavioral and morphological differences between northern vs. southern populations of this tick. Because tick-borne pathogens are dependent on their vectors for transmission, a baseline understanding of the vector population structure is crucial to determining the risks and epidemiology of pathogen transmission.
Genetic modification, or transgenesis, is a powerful technique to investigate the molecular interactions between vector-borne pathogens and their arthropod hosts, as well as a potential novel approach for vector-borne disease control. Transgenesis requires the use of specific regulatory regions, or promoters, to drive expression of genes of interest in desired target tissues. In mosquitoes, the vast majority of described promoters are from Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes.
Anopheles gambiae is a major vector mosquito for Plasmodium falciparum, the deadly pathogen causing most human malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Synthesized in the fat body, trehalose is the predominant sugar in mosquito hemolymph. It not only provides energy but also protects the mosquito against desiccation and heat stresses. Trehalose enters the mosquito hemolymph by the trehalose transporter AgTreT1. In adult female A. gambiae, AgTreT1 is predominantly expressed in the fat body. We found that AgTreT1 expression is induced by environmental stresses such as low humidity or elevated temperature. AgTreT1 RNA silencing reduces the hemolymph trehalose concentration by 40%, and the mosquitoes succumb sooner after exposure to desiccation or heat. After an infectious blood meal, AgTreT1 RNA silencing reduces the number of P. falciparum oocysts in the mosquito midgut by over 70% compared with mock-injected mosquitoes. These data reveal important roles for AgTreT1 in stress adaptation and malaria pathogen development in a major vector mosquito. Thus, AgTreT1 may be a potential target for malaria vector control.
Mosquito species, members of the genera Aedes, Anopheles and Culex, are the major vectors of human pathogens including protozoa (Plasmodium sp.), filariae and of a variety of viruses (causing dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, West Nile). There is lack of efficient methods and tools to treat many of the diseases caused by these major human pathogens, since no efficient vaccines or drugs are available; even in malaria where insecticide use and drug therapies have reduced incidence, 219 million cases still occurred in 2010. Therefore efforts are currently focused on the control of vector populations. Insecticides alone are insufficient to control mosquito populations since reduced susceptibility and even resistance is being observed more and more frequently. There is also increased concern about the toxic effects of insecticides on non-target (even beneficial) insect populations, on humans and the environment. During recent years, the role of symbionts in the biology, ecology and evolution of insect species has been well-documented and has led to suggestions that they could potentially be used as tools to control pests and therefore diseases. Wolbachia is perhaps the most renowned insect symbiont, mainly due to its ability to manipulate insect reproduction and to interfere with major human pathogens thus providing new avenues for pest control. We herein present recent achievements in the field of mosquito-Wolbachia symbiosis with an emphasis on Aedes albopictus. We also discuss how Wolbachia symbiosis can be harnessed for vector control as well as the potential to combine the sterile insect technique and Wolbachia-based approaches for the enhancement of population suppression programs.
Genetically modified mosquitoes have been proposed as an alternative strategy to reduce the heavy burden of malaria. In recent years, several proof-of-principle experiments have been performed that validate the idea that mosquitoes can be genetically modified to become refractory to malaria parasite development.
Aquaporin (AQP) water channels are important for water homeostasis in all organisms. Malaria transmission is dependent on Anopheles mosquitoes. Water balance is a major factor influencing mosquito survival, which may indirectly affect pathogen transmission.
Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria, a major public health problem among many African countries. One of the most effective methods to control malaria is by controlling the Anopheles mosquito vectors that transmit the parasites. Mathematical models have both predictive and explorative utility to investigate the pros and cons of different malaria control strategies. We have developed a C++ based, stochastic spatially explicit model (ANOSPEX; Ano pheles Spatially-Explicit) to simulate Anopheles metapopulation dynamics. The model is biologically rich, parameterized by field data, and driven by field-collected weather data from Macha, Zambia. To preliminarily validate ANOSPEX, simulation results were compared to field mosquito collection data from Macha; simulated and observed dynamics were similar. The ANOSPEX model will be useful in a predictive and exploratory manner to develop, evaluate and implement traditional and novel strategies to control malaria, and for understanding the environmental forces driving Anopheles population dynamics.
Wolbachia, a common bacterial endosymbiont of insects, has been shown to protect its hosts against a wide range of pathogens. However, not all strains exert a protective effect on their host. Here we assess the effects of two divergent Wolbachia strains, wAlbB from Aedes albopictus and wMelPop from Drosophila melanogaster, on the vector competence of Anopheles gambiae challenged with Plasmodium berghei. We show that the wAlbB strain significantly increases P. berghei oocyst levels in the mosquito midgut while wMelPop modestly suppresses oocyst levels. The wAlbB strain is avirulent to mosquitoes while wMelPop is moderately virulent to mosquitoes pre-blood meal and highly virulent after mosquitoes have fed on mice. These various effects on P. berghei levels suggest that Wolbachia strains differ in their interactions with the host and/or pathogen, and these differences could be used to dissect the molecular mechanisms that cause interference of pathogen development in mosquitoes.
In some mosquito species the conditions experienced by larvae during development have been shown to lead to changes in susceptibility to various arboviruses in the adult female. Since laboratory mosquitoes are generally reared under ideal conditions, mosquito vector competence experiments in the laboratory may not accurately reflect vector?virus relationships in nature. We examined the consequences of larval nutritional stress on Culex tarsalis vector competence for West Nile virus (WNV). Larval nutrition deprivation resulted in increased development time, decreased pupation and emergence rates, and smaller adult female body size. However, infection, dissemination, and transmission rates for WNV at 5, 7, and 14 days postfeeding were not consistently affected. These results suggest that larval nutritional rearing protocols are not a major factor in laboratory estimates of WNV vector competence in Cx. tarsalis.
EVALUATION OF: Fang W, Vega-Rodríguez J, Ghosh AK et al. Development of transgenic fungi that kill human malaria parasites in mosquitoes. Science 331(6020), 1074-1077 (2011). Paratransgenesis is the genetic manipulation of insect endosymbiotic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or fungi. Paratransgenesis has been proposed as a potential method to control vector-borne diseases such as malaria. In this article, Fang and colleagues have used genetic manipulation to insert multiple antimalaria effector genes into the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae. When the modified fungus was used to infect Anopheles mosquitoes, it expressed the antimalaria effector molecules in the mosquito hemolymph. When several different effector molecules were coexpressed, malaria levels in the mosquito salivary glands were inhibited by up to 98% compared with controls. Significant inhibition could be initiated by as little as seven fungal spores and was very rapid and long lasting. These data suggest that recombinant entomopathogenic fungi could be deployed as part of a strategy to control malaria.
The lone star tick Amblyomma americanum is host to a wide diversity of endosymbiotic bacteria. We identified a novel Wolbachia symbiont infecting A. americanum. Multilocus sequence typing phylogenetically placed the endosymbiont in the increasingly diverse F supergroup. We assayed a total of 1031 ticks (119 females, 78 males and 834 nymphs in 89 pools) from 16 Maryland populations for infection. Infection frequencies in the natural populations were approximately 5% in females and <2% (minimum infection rate) in nymphs; infection was not detected in males. Infected populations were only observed in southern Maryland, suggesting the possibility that Wolbachia is currently invading Maryland A. americanum populations. Because F supergroup Wolbachia have been detected previously in filarial nematodes, tick samples were assayed for nematodes by PCR. Filarial nematodes were detected in 70% and 9% of Wolbachia-positive and Wolbachia-negative tick samples, respectively. While nematodes were more common in Wolbachia-positive tick samples, the lack of a strict infection concordance (Wolbachia-positive, nematode-negative and Wolbachia-negative, nematode-positive ticks) suggests that Wolbachia prevalence in ticks is not due to nematode infection. Supporting this hypothesis, phylogenetic analysis indicated that the nematodes were likely a novel species within the genus Acanthocheilonema, which has been previously shown to be Wolbachia-free.
Systemic endectocidal drugs, used to control nematodes in humans and other vertebrates, can be toxic to Anopheles spp. mosquitoes when they take a blood meal from a host that has recently received one of these drugs. Recent laboratory and field studies have highlighted the potential of ivermectin to control malaria parasite transmission if this drug is distributed strategically and more often. There are important theoretical benefits to this strategy, as well as caveats. A better understanding of drug effects against vectors and malaria ecologies are needed. In the near future, ivermectin and other endectocides could serve as potent and novel malaria transmission control tools that are directly linked to the control of neglected tropical diseases in the same communities.
Altered patterns of malaria endemicity reflect, in part, changes in feeding behavior and climate adaptation of mosquito vectors. Aquaporin (AQP) water channels are found throughout nature and confer high-capacity water flow through cell membranes. The genome of the major malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae contains at least seven putative AQP sequences. Anticipating that transmembrane water movements are important during the life cycle of A. gambiae, we identified and characterized the A. gambiae aquaporin 1 (AgAQP1) protein that is homologous to AQPs known in humans, Drosophila, and sap-sucking insects. When expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes, AgAQP1 transports water but not glycerol. Similar to mammalian AQPs, water permeation of AgAQP1 is inhibited by HgCl(2) and tetraethylammonium, with Tyr185 conferring tetraethylammonium sensitivity. AgAQP1 is more highly expressed in adult female A. gambiae mosquitoes than in males. Expression is high in gut, ovaries, and Malpighian tubules where immunofluorescence microscopy reveals that AgAQP1 resides in stellate cells but not principal cells. AgAQP1 expression is up-regulated in fat body and ovary by blood feeding but not by sugar feeding, and it is reduced by exposure to a dehydrating environment (42% relative humidity). RNA interference reduces AgAQP1 mRNA and protein levels. In a desiccating environment (<20% relative humidity), mosquitoes with reduced AgAQP1 protein survive significantly longer than controls. These studies support a role for AgAQP1 in water homeostasis during blood feeding and humidity adaptation of A. gambiae, a major mosquito vector of human malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.
Amblyomma americanum (the lone star tick) is a broadly distributed tick that transmits multiple pathogens of humans and domestic animals. Candidatus Rickettsia amblyommii is a spotted-fever group rickettsial species that is potentially associated with human disease. In 2008 and 2009, we assayed over 500 unfed adult ticks from 19 Maryland populations for the presence of Candidatus R. amblyommii. Infection frequencies ranged from 33% to 100%, with an average infection rate of 60% in 2008 and 69% in 2009. Infection frequencies did not differ statistically between sexes. To develop a system in which to study Candidatus R. amblyommii in the laboratory, we used a cell line developed from Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes (Sua5B) to isolate and culture Candidatus R. amblyommii from field-collected A. americanum ticks from 2 localities in Maryland. After infection, Sua5B cells were infected for more than 40 passages. Infection was confirmed by Rickettsia-specific PCR, gene sequencing, and Rickettsia-specific fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). These data show that Candidatus R. amblyommii is widespread in Maryland A. americanum populations and that Sua5B cells are a useful tool for culturing Rickettsia infections from wild ticks.
Endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria are potent modulators of pathogen infection and transmission in multiple naturally and artificially infected insect species, including important vectors of human pathogens. Anopheles mosquitoes are naturally uninfected with Wolbachia, and stable artificial infections have not yet succeeded in this genus. Recent techniques have enabled establishment of somatic Wolbachia infections in Anopheles. Here, we characterize somatic infections of two diverse Wolbachia strains (wMelPop and wAlbB) in Anopheles gambiae, the major vector of human malaria. After infection, wMelPop disseminates widely in the mosquito, infecting the fat body, head, sensory organs and other tissues but is notably absent from the midgut and ovaries. Wolbachia initially induces the mosquito immune system, coincident with initial clearing of the infection, but then suppresses expression of immune genes, coincident with Wolbachia replication in the mosquito. Both wMelPop and wAlbB significantly inhibit Plasmodium falciparum oocyst levels in the mosquito midgut. Although not virulent in non-bloodfed mosquitoes, wMelPop exhibits a novel phenotype and is extremely virulent for approximately 12-24 hours post-bloodmeal, after which surviving mosquitoes exhibit similar mortality trajectories to control mosquitoes. The data suggest that if stable transinfections act in a similar manner to somatic infections, Wolbachia could potentially be used as part of a strategy to control the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
The endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia is being investigated as a potential control agent in several important vector insect species. Recent studies have shown that Wolbachia can protect the insect host against a wide variety of pathogens, resulting in reduced transmission of parasites and viruses. It has been proposed that compromised vector competence of Wolbachia-infected insects is due to up-regulation of the host innate immune system or metabolic competition. Anopheles mosquitoes, which transmit human malaria parasites, have never been found to harbor Wolbachia in nature. While transient somatic infections can be established in Anopheles, no stable artificially-transinfected Anopheles line has been developed despite numerous attempts. However, cultured Anopheles cells can be stably infected with multiple Wolbachia strains such as wAlbB from Aedes albopictus, wRi from Drosophila simulans and wMelPop from Drosophila melanogaster. Infected cell lines provide an amenable system to investigate Wolbachia-Anopheles interactions in the absence of an infected mosquito strain. We used Affymetrix GeneChip microarrays to investigate the effect of wAlbB and wRi infection on the transcriptome of cultured Anopheles Sua5B cells, and for a subset of genes used quantitative PCR to validate results in somatically-infected Anopheles mosquitoes. Wolbachia infection had a dramatic strain-specific effect on gene expression in this cell line, with almost 700 genes in total regulated representing a diverse array of functional classes. Very strikingly, infection resulted in a significant down-regulation of many immune, stress and detoxification-related transcripts. This is in stark contrast to the induction of immune genes observed in other insect hosts. We also identified genes that may be potentially involved in Wolbachia-induced reproductive and pathogenic phenotypes. Somatically-infected mosquitoes had similar responses to cultured cells. The data show that Wolbachia has a profound and unique effect on Anopheles gene expression in cultured cells, and has important implications for mechanistic understanding of Wolbachia-induced phenotypes and potential novel strategies to control malaria.
In south-eastern Senegal, malaria and onchocerciasis are co-endemic. Onchocerciasis in this region has been controlled by once or twice yearly mass drug administration (MDA) with ivermectin (IVM) for over fifteen years. Since laboratory-raised Anopheles gambiae s.s. are susceptible to ivermectin at concentrations found in human blood post-ingestion of IVM, it is plausible that a similar effect could be quantified in the field, and that IVM might have benefits as a malaria control tool.
"Evolution-proof" or "late-life-acting" insecticides (LLAIs) preferentially kill older adult mosquitoes and are of extreme interest to control vector-borne diseases such as malaria. We used quantitative PCR to assess whether the Anopheles gambiae densonucleosis virus (AgDNV) had potential as an LLAI. After infection, AgDNV titers increased modestly during larval development but replicated slower than the host cells, resulting in a significant decrease in the normalized virus titer during larval and pupal development. Normalized virus titers dramatically increased after adult emergence, peaking in 7- to 10-day-old adults. Unlike other DNVs, AgDNV does not significantly replicate in preadult mosquitoes but rather preferentially replicates in older adults. The natural dynamics of AgDNV make it ideal for expression of insect-specific toxin genes as a biological LLAI.
Mosquito vitellogenin (Vtg) genes belong to a small multiple gene family that encodes the major yolk protein precursors required for egg production. Multiple Vtg genes have been cloned and characterized from several mosquito species, but their origin and molecular evolution are poorly understood.
After introduction, West Nile virus (WNV) spread rapidly across the western United States between the years 2001 and 2004. This westward movement is thought to have been mediated by random dispersive movements of resident birds. Little attention has been placed on the role of mosquito vectors in virus dispersal across North America. The mosquito vector largely responsible for WNV amplification and transmission of WNV in the western USA is Culex tarsalis. Here we present population genetic data that suggest a potential role for C. tarsalis in the dispersal of WNV across the western USA. Population genetic structure across the species range of C. tarsalis in the USA was characterized in 16 states using 12 microsatellite loci. structure and geneland analyses indicated the presence of three broad population clusters. Barriers to gene flow were resolved near the Sonoran desert in southern Arizona and between the eastern Rocky Mountains and High Plains plateau. Small genetic distances among populations within clusters indicated that gene flow was not obstructed over large portions of the West Coast and within the Great Plains region. Overall, gene flow in C. tarsalis appears to be extensive, potentially mediated by movement of mosquitoes among neighbouring populations and hindered in geographically limited parts of its range. The pattern of genetic clustering in C. tarsalis is congruent with the pattern of invasion of WNV across the western United States, raising the possibility that movement of this important vector may be involved in viral dispersal.
In the mosquito Aedes aegypti the insulin/insulin growth factor I signaling (IIS) cascade is a key regulator of many physiological processes, including reproduction. Two important reproductive events, steroidogenesis in the ovary and yolk synthesis in the fat body, are regulated by the IIS cascade in mosquitoes. The signaling molecule phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) is a key inhibitor of the IIS cascade that helps modulate the activity of the IIS cascade. In Ae. aegypti, six unique splice variants of AaegPTEN were previously identified, but the role of these splice variants, particularly AaegPTEN3 and 6, were unknown.
Wolbachia pipientis bacteria are maternally inherited endosymbionts that are of interest to control the Anopheles mosquito vectors of malaria. Wolbachia does not infect Anopheles mosquitoes in nature, although cultured Anopheles cells can be infected. Here, we show that the virulent Wolbachia strain wMelPop can survive and replicate when injected into female Anopheles gambiae adults, but the somatic infections established are avirulent. These in vivo data suggest that stable Wolbachia infections of Anopheles may be possible.
Replacement of wild-type mosquito populations with genetically modified versions is being explored as a potential strategy to control vector-borne diseases. Due to lower expected relative fitness of transgenic individuals, transgenes must be driven into populations for these scenarios to be successful. Several gene drive mechanisms exist in a theoretical sense but none are currently workable in mosquitoes. Even if strategies were workable, it would be very difficult to recall released transgenes in the event of unforeseen consequences. What is needed is a way to test transgenes in the field for feasibility, efficacy and safety prior to releasing an active drive mechanism.
Temperature is known to induce changes in mosquito physiology, development, ecology, and in some species, vector competence for arboviruses. Since colonized mosquitoes are reared under laboratory conditions that can be significantly different from their field counterparts, laboratory vector competence experiments may not accurately reflect natural vector-virus interactions.
Genomic technologies are, by their very nature, designed for hypothesis generation. In some cases, the hypotheses that are generated require that genome scientists confirm findings about specific genes or proteins. But one major advantage of high-throughput technology is that global genetic, genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic behaviors can be observed. Manual confirmation of every statistically significant genomic result is prohibitively expensive. This has led researchers in genomics to adopt the strategy of confirming only a handful of the most statistically significant results, a small subset chosen for biological interest, or a small random subset. But there is no standard approach for selecting and quantitatively evaluating validation targets.
The common bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia manipulates its hosts reproduction to promote its own maternal transmission, and can interfere with pathogen development in many insects making it an attractive agent for the control of arthropod-borne disease. However, many important species, including Anopheles mosquitoes, are uninfected. Wolbachia can be artificially transferred between insects in the laboratory but this can be a laborious and sometimes fruitless process. We used a simple ex vivo culturing technique to assess the suitability of Wolbachia-host germline associations. Wolbachia infects the dissected germline tissue of multiple insect species when the host tissue and bacteria are cultured together. Ovary and testis infection occurs in a density-dependent manner. Wolbachia strains are more capable of invading the germline of their native or closely related rather than divergent hosts. The ability of Wolbachia to associate with the germline of novel hosts is crucial for the development of stably-transinfected insect lines. Rapid assessment of the suitability of a strain-host combination prior to transinfection may dictate use of a particular Wolbachia strain. Furthermore, the cultured germline tissues of two major Anopheline vectors of Plasmodium parasites are susceptible to Wolbachia infection. This finding further enhances the prospect of using Wolbachia for the biological control of malaria.
Wolbachia are maternally inherited endosymbionts that infect a diverse range of invertebrates, including insects, arachnids, crustaceans and filarial nematodes. Wolbachia are responsible for causing diverse reproductive alterations in their invertebrate hosts that maximize their transmission to the next generation. Evolutionary theory suggests that due to maternal inheritance, Wolbachia should evolve toward mutualism in infected females, but strict maternal inheritance means there is no corresponding force to select for Wolbachia strains that are mutualistic in males.
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