Wolbachia infections in Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans: polymorphism and levels of cytoplasmic incompatibility

Genetica. 2004 Mar;120(1-3):51-9. doi: 10.1023/b:gene.0000017629.31383.8f.


Wolbachia are endosymbiotic bacteria, widespread in terrestrial Arthropods. They are mainly transmitted vertically, from mothers to offspring and induce various alterations of their hosts' sexuality and reproduction, the most commonly reported phenomenon being Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (CI), observed in Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. Basically, CI results in a more or less intense embryonic mortality, occurring in crosses between males infected by Wolbachia and uninfected females. In D. simulans, Wolbachia and CI were observed in 1986. Since then, this host species has become a model system for investigating the polymorphism of Wolbachia infections and CI. In this review we describe the different Wolbachia infections currently known to occur in D. melanogaster and D. simulans. The two species are highly contrasting with regard to symbiotic diversity: while five Wolbachia variants have been described in D. simulans natural populations, D. melanogaster seems to harbor one Wolbachia variant only. Another marked difference between these two Drosophila species is their permissiveness with regard to CI, which seems to be fully expressed in D. simulans but partially or totally repressed in D. melanogaster, demonstrating the involvement of host factors in the control of CI levels. The potential of the two host species regarding the understanding of CI and its evolution is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Drosophila / microbiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Rickettsiaceae Infections / pathology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Species Specificity
  • Wolbachia / metabolism*