Organization of Wolbachia pipientis in the Drosophila fertilized egg and embryo revealed by an anti-Wolbachia monoclonal antibody

Hiroyuki Kose, Timothy L. Karr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) in Drosophila is related to the presence of Wolbachia, an intracelluar microorganism found in many species of insects. In order to study the intracellular localization of Wolbachia in eggs and embryos, we have purified the bacteria from fly embryos and subsequently generated a monoclonal antibody (Mab Wol-1) specific for Wolbachia. Indirect immunofluorescence staining using Wol-1 reveals that during mitosis, Wolbachia are localized near spindle poles and centrosomes. Double label immunofluorescence experiments using anti-tubulin and anti-Wolbachia antibodies show that Wolbachia co-localize with centrosomal microtubules throughout the cell cycle. Direct interactions between the bacteria and centrosome-organized microtubules are implied from seven observations: (1) throughout the mitotic cycle, the position and movement of Wolbachia precisely mimic the behavior of the centrosome and apparently associates with centrosome-organized microtubules; (2) Wolbachia segregate equally to each spindle pole during mitosis; (3) Wolbachia do not associate with spindle microtubules during mitosis; (4) Wolbachia located in the egg cortex localize to the domains of cytoplasm organized by microtubules during blastoderm formation; (5) polar body nuclei that lack centrosomes but contain associated microtubules do not contain Wolbachia; (6) Wolbachia no longer associate with yolk nuclei, following differentiation and loss of centrosomes; (7) during pole cell formation, Wolbachia co-localize with the centrosome on the apical side of the nucleus as pole cells form. Quantitative data indicates that no Wolbachia growth occurs during the preblastoderm period even though rapid nuclear, and subsequent cellular, proliferation takes place during this same period. This indicates that Wolbachia are under strict growth regulation by the host suggesting that host factors play a role in regulating growth of Wolbachia in the egg. Further cellular and molecular studies of the extensive, global interactions between host and symbiont observed in this egg should provide important new insights into the evolution of host/symbiosis and the cell biology of cytoplasmic incompatibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-288
Number of pages14
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytoplasmic incompatibility
  • Drosophila
  • Symbiosis
  • Wolbachia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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