A virulent strain of the obligate intracellular bacterium Wolbachia pipientis that shortens insect lifespan has recently been transinfected into the primary mosquito vector of dengue virus, Aedes aegypti L. The microbe's ability to shorten lifespan and spread through host populations under the action of cytoplasmic incompatibility means it has the potential to be used as a biocontrol agent to reduce dengue virus transmission. Wolbachia is present in many host tissues and may have local effects on diverse biological processes. In other insects, Wolbachia infections have been shown to alter locomotor activity and response time to food cues. In mosquitoes, locomotor performance relates to the location of mates, human hosts, resting sites and oviposition sites. We have therefore examined the effect of the virulent, life-shortening Wolbachia strain wMelPop on the locomotion of Ae. aegypti as they age and as the pathogenicity of the infection increases. In parallel experiments we also examined CO2 production as a proxy for metabolic rate, to investigate a potential mechanistic explanation for any changes in locomotion. Contrary to expectation, we found that the infection increased activity and metabolic rate and that these effects were relatively consistent over the insect's lifespan. The results do not fit a standard model of bacterial pathogenesis in insects, and instead may reveal additional physiological changes induced by infection, such as either increased hunger or defects in the nervous system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Molecular Biology
- Insect Science