Wolbachia pipientis: microbial manipulator of arthropod reproduction

Annu Rev Microbiol. 1999;53:71-102. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.53.1.71.


The alpha-proteobacterium Wolbachia pipientis is a very common cytoplasmic symbiont of insects, crustaceans, mites, and filarial nematodes. To enhance its transmission, W. pipientis has evolved a large scale of host manipulations: parthenogenesis induction, feminization, and male killing. W. pipientis's most common effect is a crossing incompatibility between infected males and uninfected females. Little is known about the genetics and biochemistry of these symbionts because of their fastidious requirements. The affinity of W. pipientis for the microtubules associated with the early divisions in eggs may explain some of their effects. Such inherited microorganisms are thought to have been major factors in the evolution of sex determination, eusociality, and speciation. W. pipientis isolates are also of interest as vectors for the modification of wild insect populations, in the improvement of parasitoid wasps in biological pest control, and as a new method for interfering with diseases caused by filarial nematodes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / microbiology*
  • Arthropods / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Wolbachia / physiology*