Identification and characterization of bacterial symbionts in three species of filth fly parasitoids

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Abstract

Facultative bacterial symbionts are widespread among insects and have diverse effects on their biology. Here, we focused on bacterial symbionts of three ecologically and economically important filth flies parasitoid species—Spalangia cameroni, Spalangia endius and Muscidifurax raptor. Both Spalangia species harbored a Sodalis bacterium that is closely related to Spalangia praecaptivus (a free-living bacterium) and to Sodalis symbionts of weevils. This is the only case of Sodalis infection in the important order Hymenoptera. We also found, for the first time in this parasitoid guild, a Rickettsia infecting the two Spalangia spp., albeit in much higher prevalence in S. cameroni. Molecular and phylogenetic analyses revealed that it is closely related to Rickettsia felis and other Rickettsia species from the ‘transitional’ group. All three parasitoid species harbored Wolbachia. Using multi-locus sequence typing, we found that M. raptor harbors a single Wolbachia strain whereas the Spalangia spp. have multiple strains. By controlled crossings, we found that Wolbachia infection in S. endius causes incomplete cytoplasmic incompatibility and increased longevity, thereby promoting Wolbachia's spread. In contrast, no effects of Wolbachia on the reproduction and longevity of M. raptor were found. This study underscores the diversity and nature of symbiotic interactions between microbes and insects.

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