Recombination in Wolbachia

Curr Biol. 2001 Mar 20;11(6):431-5. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(01)00101-4.


Wolbachia are widely distributed intracellular bacteria that cause a number of reproductive alterations in their eukaryotic hosts. Such alterations include the induction of parthenogenesis, feminization, cytoplasmic incompatibility, and male killing [1-11]. These important bacteria may play a role in rapid speciation in insects [12-14], and there is growing interest in their potential uses as tools for biological control and genetic manipulation of pests and disease vectors [15-16]. Here, we show recombination in the Wolbachia outer surface protein gene (wsp) between strains of Wolbachia. In addition, we find a possible ecological context for this recombination. Evidence indicates either genetic exchange between Wolbachia in a parasitoid wasp and in the fly that it parasitizes or horizontal transfer of Wolbachia between the parasitoid and the fly, followed by a recombination event. Results have important implications for the evolution of these bacteria and the potential use of Wolbachia in biological control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Phylogeny
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Wasps / microbiology
  • Wolbachia / classification
  • Wolbachia / genetics*


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Wsp protein, Wolbachia