16S rRNA phylogenetic analysis of the bacterial endosymbionts asociated with cytoplasmic incompatibility in insects

Scott L. O'Neill, Rosanna Giordano, Angela M.E. Colbert, Timothy L. Karr, Hugh M. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

949 Scopus citations


Bacterial endosymbionts of insects have long been implicated in the phenomenon of cytoplasmic incompatibility, in which certain crosses between symbiont-infected individuals lead to embryonic death or sex ratio distortion. The economic position of these bacteria has, however, not been wn with any certainty. Similarly, the relatedness of the ria infecting various insect hosts has been unclear. The ity to grow these bacteria on defined cell-free medium has the major factor underlying these uncertainties. We invented this problem by selective PCR amplification and equent sequencing of the symbiont 16S rRNA genes di ly from infected insect tissue. Maximum parsimony analysis of these sequences indicates that the symbionts belong in α-subdivision of the Proteobacteria, where they are most ely related to the Rickettsia and their relatives. They are all ly related to each other and are assigned to the type species bachia pipientis. Lack of congruence between the phytogeny the symbionts and their insect hosts suggests that horizontal transfer of symbionts between insect species may occur. Comparison of the sequences for W. pipientis and for Wolbachia vica, an endosymbiont of ticks, shows that the genus Wollbachia is polyphyletic. A PCR assay based on 16S primers was gned for the detection of W. pipientis in insect tissue, and initial screening of insects indicates that cytoplasmic incompatibility may be a more general phenomenon in insects than is currently recognized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2699-2702
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • PCR
  • Rickettsia
  • Wolbachia pipientis
  • Α-proteobacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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