Wolbachia inhibits ovarian formation and increases blood feeding rate in female Aedes aegypti

M.-J. Lau, P. A. Ross, N. M. Endersby-Harshman, Q. Yang and A. A. Hoffmann,  PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases,  16:e0010913. 2022.

Wolbachia, a gram-negative endosymbiotic bacterium widespread in arthropods, is well known for changing the reproduction of its host in ways that increase its rate of spread, but there are also costs to hosts that can reduce this. Here we investigated a novel reproductive alteration of Wolbachia wAlbB on its host Aedes aegypti, using studies on mosquito life history traits, ovarian dissection, as well as gene expression assays. We found that an extended period of the larval stage as well as the egg stage (as previously shown) can increase the proportion of Wolbachia-infected females that become infertile; an effect which was not observed in uninfected females. Infertile females had incomplete ovarian formation and also showed a higher frequency of blood feeding following a prior blood meal, indicating that they do not enter a complete gonotrophic cycle. Treatments leading to infertility also decreased the expression of genes related to reproduction, especially the vitellogenin receptor gene whose product regulates the uptake of vitellogenin (Vg) into ovaries. Our results demonstrate effects associated with the development of infertility in wAlbB-infected Ae. aegyptifemales with implications for Wolbachia releases. The results also have implications for the evolution of Wolbachia infections in novel hosts.

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