Evidence for horizontal transfer of Wolbachia by a Drosophila mite

Exp Appl Acarol. 2015 Jul;66(3):301-11. doi: 10.1007/s10493-015-9918-z. Epub 2015 Apr 29.


Mites are common ectoparasites of Drosophila and have been implicated in bacterial and mobile element invasion of Drosophila stocks. The obligate endobacterium, Wolbachia, has widespread effects on gene expression in their arthropod hosts and alters host reproduction to enhance its survival and propagation, often with deleterious effects in Drosophila hosts. To determine whether Wolbachia could be transferred between Drosophila melanogaster laboratory stocks by the mite Tyrophagus putrescentiae, mites were introduced to Wolbachia-infected Drosophila vials. These vials were kept adjacent to mite-free and Wolbachia-uninfected Drosophila stock vials. The Wolbachia infection statuses of the infected and uninfected flies were checked from generation 1 to 5. Results indicate that Wolbachia DNA could be amplified from mites infesting Wolbachia-infected fly stocks and infection in the previously uninfected stocks arose within generation 1 or 2, concomitant with invasion of mites from the Wolbachia-infected stock. A possible mechanism for the transfer of Wolbachia from flies to mites and vice versa, can be inferred from time-lapse photography of fly and mite interactions. We demonstrated that mites ingest Drosophila corpses, including Wolbachia-infected corpses, and Drosophila larva ingest mites, providing possible sources of Wolbachia infection and transfer. This research demonstrated that T. putrescentiae white mites can facilitate Wolbachia transfer between Drosophila stocks and that this may occur by ingestion of infected corpses. Mite-vectored Wolbachia transfer allows for rapid establishment of Wolbachia infection within a new population. This mode of Wolbachia introduction may be relevant in nature as well as in the laboratory, and could have a variety of biological consequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acaridae / microbiology*
  • Acaridae / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / parasitology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Larva / parasitology
  • Larva / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Wolbachia / genetics
  • Wolbachia / physiology*


  • DNA, Bacterial