Dynamics of double and single Wolbachia infections in Drosophila simulans from New Caledonia

Heredity (Edinb). 2002 Mar;88(3):182-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.hdy.6800025.


The bacterial symbiont Wolbachia can cause cytoplasmic incompatibility in Drosophila simulans flies: if an infected male mates with an uninfected female, or a female with a different strain of Wolbachia, there can be a dramatic reduction in the number of viable eggs produced. Here we explore the dynamics associated with double and single Wolbachia infections in New Caledonia. Doubly infected females were compatible with all males in the population, explaining the high proportion of doubly infected flies. In this study, males that carry only wHa or wNo infections showed reduced incompatibility when mated to uninfected females, compared with previous reports. These data suggest that either the DNA of these bacterial isolates have diverged from those previously collected, or the genetic background of the host has lead to a reduction in the phenotype of incompatibility. Mitochondrial sequence polymorphism at two sites within the host genome was assayed to investigate population structure related to infection types. There was no correlation between sequence polymorphism and infection type suggesting that double infections are the stable type, with singly infected and uninfected flies arising from stochastic segregation of bacterial strains. Finally, we discuss the nomenclature of Wolbachia strain designation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / pathology*
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • New Caledonia
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sex Ratio
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Wolbachia / metabolism*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial