Comparative Genomics of a Parthenogenesis-Inducing Wolbachia Symbiont

G3 (Bethesda). 2016 Jul 7;6(7):2113-23. doi: 10.1534/g3.116.028449.


Wolbachia is an intracellular symbiont of invertebrates responsible for inducing a wide variety of phenotypes in its host. These host-Wolbachia relationships span the continuum from reproductive parasitism to obligate mutualism, and provide a unique system to study genomic changes associated with the evolution of symbiosis. We present the genome sequence from a parthenogenesis-inducing Wolbachia strain (wTpre) infecting the minute parasitoid wasp Trichogramma pretiosum The wTpre genome is the most complete parthenogenesis-inducing Wolbachia genome available to date. We used comparative genomics across 16 Wolbachia strains, representing five supergroups, to identify a core Wolbachia genome of 496 sets of orthologous genes. Only 14 of these sets are unique to Wolbachia when compared to other bacteria from the Rickettsiales. We show that the B supergroup of Wolbachia, of which wTpre is a member, contains a significantly higher number of ankyrin repeat-containing genes than other supergroups. In the wTpre genome, there is evidence for truncation of the protein coding sequences in 20% of ORFs, mostly as a result of frameshift mutations. The wTpre strain represents a conversion from cytoplasmic incompatibility to a parthenogenesis-inducing lifestyle, and is required for reproduction in the Trichogramma host it infects. We hypothesize that the large number of coding frame truncations has accompanied the change in reproductive mode of the wTpre strain.

Keywords: Rickettsiales; Trichogramma; gene truncations; genome content; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ankyrin Repeat
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Culicidae / microbiology
  • Drosophila / microbiology
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Genomics
  • Host Specificity
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Parthenogenesis / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Symbiosis / genetics*
  • Wasps / genetics
  • Wasps / microbiology*
  • Wolbachia / classification
  • Wolbachia / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins