Mitochondrial DNA variants help monitor the dynamics of Wolbachia invasion into host populations

H. L. Yeap*, G. Rašić, N. M. Endersby-Harshman, S. F. Lee, E. Arguni, H. Le Nguyen, A. A. Hoffmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Wolbachia is the most widespread endosymbiotic bacterium of insects and other arthropods that can rapidly invade host populations. Deliberate releases of Wolbachia into natural populations of the dengue fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, are used as a novel biocontrol strategy for dengue suppression. Invasion of Wolbachia through the host population relies on factors such as high fidelity of the endosymbiont transmission and limited immigration of uninfected individuals, but these factors can be difficult to measure. One way of acquiring relevant information is to consider mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation alongside Wolbachia in field-caught mosquitoes. Here we used diagnostic mtDNA markers to differentiate infection-associated mtDNA haplotypes from those of the uninfected mosquitoes at release sites. Unique haplotypes associated with Wolbachia were found at locations outside Australia. We also performed mathematical and qualitative analyses including modelling the expected dynamics of the Wolbachia and mtDNA variants during and after a release. Our analyses identified key features in haplotype frequency patterns to infer the presence of imperfect maternal transmission of Wolbachia, presence of immigration and possibly incomplete cytoplasmic incompatibility. We demonstrate that ongoing screening of the mtDNA variants should provide information on maternal leakage and immigration, particularly in releases outside Australia. As we demonstrate in a case study, our models to track the Wolbachia dynamics can be successfully applied to temporal studies in natural populations or Wolbachia release programs, as long as there is co-occurring mtDNA variation that differentiates infected and uninfected populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-276
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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