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Evidence for widespread Wolbachia infection in isopod crustaceans: molecular identification and host feminization

Didier Bouchon, Thierry Rigaud, Pierre Juchault


Wolbachia are maternally inherited, intracellular, alpha proteobacteria that infect a wide range of arthropods. They cause three kinds of reproductive alterations in their hosts: cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis and feminization. There have been many studies of the distribution of Wolbachia in arthropods, but very few crustacean species are known to be infected. We investigated the prevalence of Wolbachia in 85 species from five crustacean orders. Twenty–two isopod species were found to carry these bacteria. The bacteria were found mainly in terrestrial species suggesting that Wolbachia came from a continental environment. The evolutionary relationships between these Wolbachia strains were determined by sequencing bacterial genes and by interspecific transfers. All the bacteria associated with isopods belonged to the wolbachiae B group, based on 16S rDNA sequence data. All the terrestrial isopod symbionts in this group except one formed an independent clade. The results of interspecific transfers show evidence of specialization of Wolbachia symbionts to their isopod hosts. They also suggest that host species plays a more important role than bacterial phylogeny in determining the phenotype induced by Wolbachia infection.

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