Wolbachia pipientis: Intracellular infection and pathogenesis in Drosophila

Elizabeth A. McGraw, Scott L. O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Wolbachia pipientis is a vertically transmitted, obligate intracellular symbiont of arthropods. The bacterium is best known for its ability to manipulate host reproductive biology where it can induce cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis, feminization and male-killing. In addition to the various reproductive phenotypes it generates through interaction with host reproductive tissue it is also known to infect somatic tissues. However, relatively little is known about the consequences of infection of these tissues with the exception that in some hosts Wolbachia acts as a classical mutualist and in others a pathogen, dramatically shortening adult insect lifespan. Manipulation experiments have demonstrated that the severity of Wolbachia-induced effects on the host is determined by a combination of host genotype, Wolbachia strain, host tissue localization, and interaction with the environment. The recent completion of the whole genome sequence of Wolbachia pipientis wMel strain indicates that it is likely to use a type IV secretion system to establish and maintain infection in its host. Moreover, an unusual abundance of genes encoding proteins with eukaryotic-like ankyrin repeat domains suggest a function in the various described phenotypic effects in hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-70
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Opinion in Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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