wMel Wolbachia genome remains stable after 7 years in Australian Aedes aegypti field populations

K. R. Dainty, J. Hawkey, L. M. Judd, E. C. Pacidônio, J. M. Duyvestyn, D. S. Gonçalves, S. Y. Lin, T. B. O'Donnell, S. L. O'Neill, C. P. Simmons, K. E. Holt and H. A. Flores,  Microbial Genomics,  7. 2021.

Infection of wMel Wolbachia in Aedes aegypti imparts two signature features that enable its application for biocontrol of dengue. First, the susceptibility of mosquitoes to viruses such as dengue and Zika is reduced. Second, a reproductive manipulation is caused that enables wMel introgression into wild-type mosquito populations. The long-term success of this method relies, in part, on evolution of the wMel genome not compromising the critical features that make it an attractive biocontrol tool. This study compared the wMel Wolbachia genome at the time of initial releases and 1-7 years post-release in Cairns, Australia. Our results show the wMel genome remains highly conserved up to 7 years post-release in gene sequence, content, synteny and structure. This work suggests the wMel genome is stable in its new mosquito host and, therefore, provides reassurance on the potential for wMel to deliver long-term public-health impacts.

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