Male age, host effects and the weak expression or non-expression of cytoplasmic incompatibility in Drosophila strains infected by maternally transmitted Wolbachia

Genet Res. 2002 Oct;80(2):79-87. doi: 10.1017/s0016672302005827.


In Drosophila melanogaster, the maternally inherited endocellular microbe Wolbachia causes cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) in crosses between infected males and uninfected females. CI results in a reduction in the number of eggs that hatch. The level of CI expression in this species has been reported as varying from partial (a few eggs fail to hatch) to nonexistent (all eggs hatch). We show that male age in this host species has a large impact on the level of CI exhibited and explains much of this variability. Strong CI is apparent when young males are used in crosses. CI declines rapidly with male age, particularly when males are repeatedly mated. Wolbachia from a Canton S line that was previously reported as not causing CI does in fact induce CI when young males are used in crosses, albeit at a weaker level than in other D. melanogaster strains. The strain differences in CI expression are due to host background effects rather than differences in Wolbachia strains. These results highlight the importance of undertaking crosses with a range of male ages and nuclear backgrounds before ascribing particular host phenotypes to Wolbachia strains.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Cytoplasm / physiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Drosophila / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Wolbachia*


  • DNA, Bacterial