The yeast Wickerhamomyces anomalus (Pichia anomala) inhabits the midgut and reproductive system of the Asian malaria vector Anopheles stephensi


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While symbiosis between bacteria and insects has been thoroughly investigated in the last two decades, investments on the study of yeasts associated with insects have been limited. Insect-associated yeasts are placed on different branches of the phylogenetic tree of fungi, indicating that these associations evolved independently on several occasions. Isolation of yeasts is frequently reported from insect habitats, and in some cases yeasts have been detected in the insect gut and in other organs/tissues. Here we show that the yeast Wickerhamomyces anomalus, previously known as Pichia anomala, is stably associated with the mosquito Anopheles stephensi, a main vector of malaria in Asia. Wickerhamomyces anomalus colonized pre-adult stages (larvae L1–L4 and pupae) and adults of different sex and age and could be isolated in pure culture. By a combination of transmission electron microscopy and fluorescent in situ hybridization techniques, W. anomalus was shown to localize in the midgut and in both the male and female reproductive systems, suggesting multiple transmission patterns.