Molecular detection, penetrance, and transmission of an inherited virus responsible for behavioral manipulation of an insect parasitoid

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Feb;75(3):703-10. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01778-08. Epub 2008 Dec 5.


For insects, the prevalence of numerous vertically transmitted viruses can be high in their host populations. These viruses often have few, if any, pathological effects on their hosts, and consequently, many of them can remain unnoticed for long periods, despite their potential role in the evolution of the host phenotype. Some females of Leptopilina boulardi, a solitary parasitoid of Drosophila larvae, are infected by an inherited virus (LbFV) that manipulates the behavior of the wasp by increasing its tendency to lay eggs in a host that is already parasitized (superparasitism). This behavioral alteration allows horizontal transmission of the virus within superparasitized Drosophila larvae. Using suppressive subtractive hybridization with infected and uninfected lines, we identified one putative viral sequence. Based on this sequence, we developed a simple PCR test. We tested the correlation between the superparasitism phenotype and PCR amplification of the putative viral marker using several experimental conditions (including horizontal transfers) and several parasitoid genotypes. All of the results revealed that there was a perfect match between the superparasitism phenotype and the amplification profile, which validated use of the molecular marker as a tool to track the presence of the virus and provided the first genomic data for this fascinating virus. The results also show that there was very efficient horizontal and vertical transmission of LbFV, which probably explains its high prevalence in the French populations that we sampled (67 and 70% of infected females). This manipulative virus is likely to play a major role in the ecology and evolution of its parasitoid host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Hymenoptera / virology*
  • Virus Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Viruses / genetics
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Viruses / pathogenicity*