Wolbachia: intracellular manipulators of mite reproduction

Exp Appl Acarol. 1996 Aug;20(8):421-34. doi: 10.1007/BF00053306.


Cytoplasmically transmitted Wolbachia (alpha-Proteobacteria) are a group of closely related intracellular microorganisms that alter reproduction in arthropods. They are found in a few isopods and are widespread in insects. Wolbachia are implicated as the cause of parthenogenesis in parasitic wasps, feminization in isopods and reproductive (cytoplasmic) incompatibility in many insects. Here we report on the widespread occurrence of Wolbachia in spider mites and predatory mites based on a PCR assay for a 730 bp fragment of the ftsZ gene with primers that are specific for Wolbachia. An additional PCR, using two primer pairs that amplify a 259 bp region of the ftsZ gene that are diagnostic for the two Wolbachia subdivisions A and B, showed that infected mites only carried type B and not type A Wolbachia. The fact that some species tested negative for Wolbachia does not mean that the entire species is uninfected. We found that natural populations of Tetranychus urticae are polymorphic for the infection. The possible effects of Wolbachia on mite reproduction and post-zygotic reproductive isolation are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Female
  • Mites / microbiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rickettsiaceae / genetics
  • Rickettsiaceae / isolation & purification*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • FtsZ protein, Bacteria