Symbiotic enemies fight over insect

Phage and Wolbachia form tug of war to influence arthropod reproduction

Clementine Wallace
May 22, 2006
Wolbachia, a common bacteria, manipulates reproduction in arthropods -- but may sometimes fight for the right to do so with its bacteriophage, according to a study published in this week's PLoS Pathogens. In insects, Wolbachia induce cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), in which infected males are unable to mate with uninfected females. Previous research has shown that the higher the density of Wolbachia, the stronger the CI. The latest findings show that CI strength is also related -- albeit, inversely -- to the density of a Wolbachia phage."We observed that the more phages proliferate, the less prevalent the bacteria, and the less CI occurs," lead author Seth Bordenstein, from the Marine Biological laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, told The Scientist. "In the end, it's as if the phage is in a tug of war with Wolbachia."Present in 75% of all insects, Wolbachia are one of...