Bacteriophage WO-B and Wolbachia in natural mosquito hosts: infection incidence, transmission mode and relative density


Dr Pattamaporn Kittayapong. Fax: +662 201 5923; E-mail:


Bacteriophages of Wolbachia bacteria have been proposed as a potential transformation tool for genetically modifying mosquito vectors. In this study, we report the presence of the WO-B class of Wolbachia-associated phages among natural populations of several mosquito hosts. Eighty-eight percent (22/25) of Wolbachia-infected mosquito species surveyed were found to contain WO-B phages. WO-B phage orf7 sequence analysis suggested that a single strain of WO-B phage was found in most singly (23/24) or doubly (1/1) Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes. However, the single Wolbachia strain infecting Aedes perplexus was found to harbour at least two different WO-B phages. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that horizontal transmission of WO-B phages has occurred on an evolutionary scale between the Wolbachia residing in mosquitoes. On an ecological scale, a low trend of co-transmission occurred among specific WO-B phages within Wolbachia of each mosquito species. Assessment of the density of WO-B phage by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RTQ-PCR) revealed an average relative density of 7.76 × 105± 1.61 × 105 orf7 copies per individual mosquito for a single Wolbachia strain infecting mosquitoes, but a threefold higher density in the doubly Wolbachia-infected Aedes albopictus. However, the average combined density of WO-B phage(s) did not correlate with that of their Wolbachia hosts, which varied in different mosquito species. We also confirmed the presence of WO-B-like virus particles in the laboratory colony of Ae. albopictus (KLPP) morphologically, by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The viral-like particles were detected after purification and filtration of Ae. albopictus ovary extract, suggesting that at least one WO-B-like phage is active (temperate) within the Wolbachia of this mosquito vector. Nevertheless, the idea of utilizing these bacteriophages as transformation vectors still needs more investigation and is likely to be unfeasible.