Wolbachia infections are distributed throughout insect somatic and germ line tissues

Stephen L. Dobson, Kostas Bourtzis, Henk R. Braig, Brian F. Jones, Weiguo Zhou, François Rousset, Scott L. O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

311 Scopus citations


Wolbachia are intracellular microorganisms that form maternally- inherited infections within numerous arthropod species. These bacteria have drawn much attention, due in part to the reproductive alterations that they induce in their hosts including cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), feminization and parthenogenesis. Although Wolbachia's presence within insect reproductive tissues has been well described, relatively few studies have examined the extent to which Wolbachia infects other tissues. We have examined Wolbachia tissue tropism in a number of representative insect hosts by western blot, dot blot hybridization and diagnostic PCR. Results from these studies indicate that Wolbachia are much more widely distributed in host tissues than previously appreciated. Furthermore, the distribution of Wolbachia in somatic tissues varied between different Wolbachia/host associations. Some associations showed Wolbachia disseminated throughout most tissues while others appeared to be much more restricted, being predominantly limited to the reproductive tissues. We discuss the relevance of these infection patterns to the evolution of Wolbachia/host symbioses and to potential applied uses of Wolbachia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-160
Number of pages8
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Serap Aksoy for providing insect material and Rhoel Dingalasan for his technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AI07404-07, AI34355, AI40620), the McKnight foundation, the UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, and the Greek Secretariat for Research and Technology (PENED 15774).


  • Aedes albopictus
  • Cadra cautella
  • Culex pipiens
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Drosophila simulans
  • Glossina morsitans
  • WSP antibody
  • Wolbachia pipientis
  • dnaA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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