Living in the endosymbiotic world of Wolbachia: A centennial review

Rupinder Kaur, J. Dylan Shropshire, Karissa L. Cross, Brittany Leigh, Alexander J. Mansueto, Victoria Stewart, Sarah R. Bordenstein, Seth R. Bordenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


The most widespread intracellular bacteria in the animal kingdom are maternally inherited endosymbionts of the genus Wolbachia. Their prevalence in arthropods and nematodes worldwide and stunning arsenal of parasitic and mutualistic adaptations make these bacteria a biological archetype for basic studies of symbiosis and applied outcomes for curbing human and agricultural diseases. Here, we conduct a summative, centennial analysis of living in the Wolbachia world. We synthesize literature on Wolbachia's host range, phylogenetic diversity, genomics, cell biology, and applications to filarial, arboviral, and agricultural diseases. We also review the mobilome of Wolbachia including phage WO and its essentiality to hallmark reproductive phenotypes in arthropods. Finally, the Wolbachia system is an exemplar for discovery-based science education using biodiversity, biotechnology, and bioinformatics lessons. As we approach a century of Wolbachia research, the interdisciplinary science of this symbiosis stands as a model for consolidating and teaching the integrative rules of endosymbiotic life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-893
Number of pages15
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 9 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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