Wolbachia -induced inhibition of O’nyong nyong virus in Anopheles mosquitoes is mediated by Toll signaling and modulated by cholesterol

S. Pujhari, G. L. Hughes, N. Pakpour, Y. Suzuki and J. L. Rasgon,  bioRxiv,  10.1101/2023.05.31.543096. 2023.

Enhanced host immunity and competition for metabolic resources are two main competing hypotheses for the mechanism of Wolbachia -mediated pathogen inhibition in arthropods. Using an Anopheles mosquito – somatic Wolbachia infection – O’nyong nyong virus (ONNV) model, we demonstrate that the mechanism underpinning Wolbachia -mediated virus inhibition is up-regulation of the Toll innate immune pathway. However, the viral inhibitory properties of Wolbachia were abolished by cholesterol supplementation. This result was due to Wolbachia -dependent cholesterol-mediated suppression of Toll signaling rather than competition for cholesterol between Wolbachia and virus. The inhibitory effect of cholesterol was specific to Wolbachia -infected Anopheles mosquitoes and cells. These data indicate that both Wolbachia and cholesterol influence Toll immune signaling in Anopheles mosquitoes in a complex manner and provide a functional link between the host immunity and metabolic competition hypotheses for explaining Wolbachia -mediated pathogen interference in mosquitoes. In addition, these results provide a mechanistic understanding of the mode of action of Wolbachia -induced pathogen blocking in Anophelines, which is critical to evaluate the long-term efficacy of control strategies for malaria and Anopheles -transmitted arboviruses. HIGHLIGHTS: Wolbachia inhibits O’nyong nyong virus (ONNV) in Anopheles mosquitoes. Enhanced Toll signaling is responsible for Wolbachia -induced interference of ONNV. Cholesterol suppresses Toll signaling to modulate Wolbachia -induced ONNV interference.

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