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The host range of the male-killing symbiont Arsenophonus nasoniae in filth fly parasitioids

Taylor, G.P., Coghlin, P.C., Floate, K.D., Perlman, S.J. (2011). The host range of the male-killing symbiont Arsenophonus nasoniae in filth fly parasitioids, 106(3), 371-379.


The Son-killer bacterium, Arsenophonus nasoniae, infects Nasonia vitripennis (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae), a parasitic wasp that attacks filth flies. This gammaproteobacterium kills a substantial amount of male embryos produced by an infected female. Aside from male death, the bacterium does not measurably affect the host, and how it is maintained in the host population is unknown. Interestingly, this bacterial symbiont can be transmitted both vertically (from mother to offspring) and horizontally (to unrelated Nasonia wasps developing in the same fly host). This latter mode may allow the bacterium to spread throughout the ecological community of filth flies and their parasitoids, and to colonize novel species, as well as permit its long-term persistence. We tested 11 species of filth flies and 25 species of their associated parasitoids (representing 28 populations from 16 countries) using diagnostic PCR to assess the bacterium's actual host range. In addition to 16S rRNA, two loci were targeted: the housekeeping gene infB, and a sequence with high homology to a DNA polymerase gene from a lysogenic phage previously identified from other insect symbionts. We identified infections of A. nasoniae in four species of parasitoids, representing three taxonomic families. Highly similar phage sequences were also identified in three of the four species. These results identify the symbiont as a generalist, rather than a specialist restricted solely to species of Nasonia, and also that horizontal transmission may play an important role in its maintenance. © 2010.

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