Evolution and phylogeny of Wolbachia: reproductive parasites of arthropods

Proc Biol Sci. 1995 Jul 22;261(1360):55-63. doi: 10.1098/rspb.1995.0117.


Wolbachia are cytoplasmically inherited bacteria found in reproductive tissues of many arthropod species. These bacteria are associated with reproductive alterations in their hosts, including parthenogenesis, reproductive incompatibility and feminization. A fine-scale phylogenetic analysis was done using DNA sequences from ftsZ, a rapidly evolving bacterial cell-cycle gene. ftsZ sequences were determined for 38 different Wolbachia strains from 31 different species of insects and one isopod. The following results were found: (i) there are two major division of Wolbachia (A and B) which diverged 58-67 millions years before present based upon synonymous substitution rates; (ii) a general concordance is found between the ftsZ and 16S rDNA phylogenies, indicating that these represent bacterial strain (rather than simply gene) phylogenies; however, a possible example of recombination between A and B division bacteria may have occurred in the feminizing Wolbachia present in an isopod; (iii) extensive horizontal transmission of Wolbachia has occurred between insect taxa, including different insect orders; one strain in particular (designated Adm) shows extensive recent horizontal transmission; (iv) there is an association between the Wolbachia found in a parasitic wasp (Nasonia) and its fly host (Protocalliphora), suggesting exchange of bacteria between these species; (v) parthenogenesis induction has evolved several times among the Wolbachia; and (vi) some insects harbour infections with more than one Wolbachia strain, even within individual insects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / microbiology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA Primers
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rickettsiaceae / classification
  • Rickettsiaceae / genetics*
  • Rickettsiaceae / pathogenicity


  • DNA Primers

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U28175
  • GENBANK/U28176
  • GENBANK/U28177
  • GENBANK/U28178
  • GENBANK/U28179
  • GENBANK/U28180
  • GENBANK/U28181
  • GENBANK/U28182
  • GENBANK/U28183
  • GENBANK/U28184
  • GENBANK/U28185
  • GENBANK/U28186
  • GENBANK/U28187
  • GENBANK/U28188
  • GENBANK/U28189
  • GENBANK/U28190
  • GENBANK/U28191
  • GENBANK/U28192
  • GENBANK/U28193
  • GENBANK/U28194
  • GENBANK/U28195
  • GENBANK/U28196
  • GENBANK/U28197
  • GENBANK/U28198
  • GENBANK/U28199
  • GENBANK/U28200
  • GENBANK/U28201
  • GENBANK/U28202
  • GENBANK/U28203
  • GENBANK/U28204