Cross-tissue and generation predictability of relative Wolbachia densities in the mosquito Aedes aegypti

Austin J. Mejia, H. L.C. Dutra, M. J. Jones, R. Perera, E. A. McGraw

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1 Scopus citations


Background: The insect endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia is being deployed in field populations of the mosquito Aedes aegypti for biological control. This microbe prevents the replication of human disease-causing viruses inside the vector, including dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Relative Wolbachia densities may in part predict the strength of this ‘viral blocking’ effect. Additionally, Wolbachia densities may affect the strength of the reproductive manipulations it induces, including cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), maternal inheritance rates or induced fitness effects in the insect host. High rates of CI and maternal inheritance and low rates of fitness effects are also key to the successful spreading of Wolbachia through vector populations and its successful use in biocontrol. The factors that control Wolbachia densities are not completely understood. Methods: We used quantitative PCR-based methods to estimate relative density of the Wolbachia wAlbB strain in both the somatic and reproductive tissues of adult male and female mosquitoes, as well as in eggs. Using correlation analyses, we assessed whether densities in one tissue predict those in others within the same individual, but also across generations. Results: We found little relationship among the relative Wolbachia densities of different tissues in the same host. The results also show that there was very little relationship between Wolbachia densities in parents and those in offspring, both in the same and different tissues. The one exception was with ovary–egg relationships, where there was a strong positive association. Relative Wolbachia densities in reproductive tissues were always greater than those in the somatic tissues. Additionally, the densities were consistent in females over their lifetime regardless of tissue, whereas they were generally higher and more variable in males, particularly in the testes. Conclusions: Our results indicate that either stochastic processes or local tissue-based physiologies are more likely factors dictating Wolbachia densities in Ae. aegypti individuals, rather than shared embryonic environments or heritable genetic effects of the mosquito genome. These findings have implications for understanding how relative Wolbachia densities may evolve and/or be maintained over the long term in Ae. aegypti. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number128
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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