Heads or tails: Host-parasite interactions in the Drosophila-Wolbachia system

Zoe Veneti, Michael E. Clark, Timothy L. Karr, Charalambos Savakis, Kostas Bourtzis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Wolbachia strains are endosymbiotic bacteria typically found in the reproductive tracts of arthropods. These bacteria manipulate host reproduction to ensure maternal transmission. They are usually transmitted vertically, so it has been predicted that they have evolved a mechanism to target the host's germ cells during development. Through cytological analysis we found that Wolbachia strains display various affinities for the germ line of Drosophila. Different Wolbachia strains show posterior, anterior, or cortical localization in Drosophila embryos, and this localization is congruent with the classification of the organisms based on the wsp (Wolbachia surface protein) gene sequence. This embryonic distribution pattern is established during early oogenesis and does not change until late stages of embryogenesis. The posterior and anterior localization of Wolbachia resembles that of oskar and bicoid mRNAs, respectively, which define the anterior-posterior axis in the Drosophila oocyte. By comparing the properties of a single Wolbachia strain in different host backgrounds and the properties of different Wolbachia strains in the same host background, we concluded that bacterial factors determine distribution, while bacterial density seems to be limited by the host. Possible implications concerning cytoplasmic incompatibility and evolution of strains are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5366-5372
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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