Diversification of Wolbachia Endosymbiont in the Culex pipiens Mosquito
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The α-proteobacteria Wolbachia are among the most common intracellular bacteria and have recently emerged as important drivers of arthropod biology. Wolbachia commonly act as reproductive parasites in arthropods by inducing cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), a type of conditional sterility between hosts harboring incompatible infections. In this study, we examined the evolutionary histories of Wolbachia infections, known as wPip, in the common house mosquito Culex pipiens, which exhibits the greatest variation in CI crossing patterns observed in any insect. We first investigated a panel of 20 wPip strains for their genetic diversity through a multilocus scheme combining 13 Wolbachia genes. Because Wolbachia depend primarily on maternal transmission for spreading within arthropod populations, we also studied the variability in the coinherited Cx. pipiens mitochondria. In total, we identified 14 wPip haplotypes, which all share a monophyletic origin and clearly cluster into five distinct wPip groups. The diversity of Cx. pipiens mitochondria was extremely reduced, which is likely a consequence of cytoplasmic hitchhiking driven by a unique and recent Wolbachia invasion. Phylogenetic evidence indicates that wPip infections and mitochondrial DNA have codiverged through stable cotransmission within the cytoplasm and shows that a rapid diversification of wPip has occurred. The observed pattern demonstrates that a considerable degree of Wolbachia diversity can evolve within a single host species over short evolutionary periods. In addition, multiple signatures of recombination were found in most wPip genomic regions, leading us to conclude that the mosaic nature of wPip genomes may play a key role in their evolution.
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