Long PCR improves Wolbachia DNA amplification: wsp sequences found in 76% of sixty-three arthropod species

Insect Mol Biol. 2000 Aug;9(4):393-405. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2583.2000.00203.x.


Bacteria belonging to the genus Wolbachia are associated with a variety of reproductive anomalies in arthropods. Allele-specific polymerase chain reaction (= Standard PCR) routinely has been used to amplify Wolbachia DNA from arthropods. While testing the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae and other arthropods known to be infected with Wolbachia, Standard PCR frequently produced false negatives, perhaps because the DNA from the arthropod host interfered with amplification by Taq DNA polymerase. Long PCR, which uses two enzymes (Taq and Pwo), consistently amplified Wolbachia DNA and a sensitivity analysis indicated that Long PCR was approximately six orders of magnitude more sensitive than Standard PCR in amplifying plasmid DNA spiked into insect genomic DNA. A survey indicated that 76% of sixty-two arthropod species and two subspecies in thirteen orders tested positive for the Wolbachia wsp sequence by Long PCR, which is considerably higher than the rate of 16.9% obtained previously for the ftsZ sequence using Standard PCR (Werren, J.H., Windsor, D. and Gao, L. (1995a) Proc R Soc Lond B 262: 197-204). A subsample of Long PCR products from fourteen arthropod species and two subspecies were sequenced, both directly and after cloning. Two A- and eleven B-Wolbachia strains were detected and their wsp sequences displayed a maximum of 23.7% sequence divergence at this locus. Two new groups (named Fus and Ten) were identified in addition to nineteen reported earlier (Zhou, W., Rousset, F. and O'Neill, S.L. (1998) Proc R Soc Lond B 265: 1-7; van Meer, M.M.M., Witteveldt, J. and Stouthamer, R. (1999) Insect Mol Biol 8: 399-408), because they displayed more than 2.5% sequence divergence from other Wolbachia wsp sequences. PCR products from seventeen of twenty-nine (59%) arthropod species analysed could not be sequenced directly due to apparent infection by multiple Wolbachia strains. The wsp sequences cloned from two such species (Plutella xylostella and Trichoplusia ni) indicated both A- and B-Wolbachia were present in a single individual. Hence, superinfection also may be more widespread than the 1.2% incidence previously estimated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / microbiology*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Wasps / microbiology*
  • Wolbachia / classification
  • Wolbachia / genetics*


  • DNA, Bacterial

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF217713
  • GENBANK/AF217714
  • GENBANK/AF217715
  • GENBANK/AF217716
  • GENBANK/AF217717
  • GENBANK/AF217718
  • GENBANK/AF217719
  • GENBANK/AF217720
  • GENBANK/AF217721
  • GENBANK/AF217722
  • GENBANK/AF217723
  • GENBANK/AF217724
  • GENBANK/AF217725