Wolbachia association with the tsetse fly, Glossina fuscipes fuscipes, reveals high levels of genetic diversity and complex evolutionary dynamics

Rebecca E. Symula, Uzma Alam, Corey Brelsfoard, Yineng Wu, Richard Echodu, Loyce M. Okedi, Serap Aksoy, Adalgisa Caccone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Wolbachia pipientis, a diverse group of α-proteobacteria, can alter arthropod host reproduction and confer a reproductive advantage to Wolbachia-infected females (cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI)). This advantage can alter host population genetics because Wolbachia-infected females produce more offspring with their own mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes than uninfected females. Thus, these host haplotypes become common or fixed (selective sweep). Although simulations suggest that for a CI-mediated sweep to occur, there must be a transient phase with repeated initial infections of multiple individual hosts by different Wolbachia strains, this has not been observed empirically. Wolbachia has been found in the tsetse fly, Glossina fuscipes fuscipes, but it is not limited to a single host haplotype, suggesting that CI did not impact its population structure. However, host population genetic differentiation could have been generated if multiple Wolbachia strains interacted in some populations. Here, we investigated Wolbachia genetic variation in G. f. fuscipes populations of known host genetic composition in Uganda. We tested for the presence of multiple Wolbachia strains using Multi-Locus Sequence Typing (MLST) and for an association between geographic region and host mtDNA haplotype using Wolbachia DNA sequence from a variable locus, groEL (heat shock protein 60). Results: MLST demonstrated that some G. f. fuscipes carry Wolbachia strains from two lineages. GroEL revealed high levels of sequence diversity within and between individuals (Haplotype diversity = 0.945). We found Wolbachia associated with 26 host mtDNA haplotypes, an unprecedented result. We observed a geographical association of one Wolbachia lineage with southern host mtDNA haplotypes, but it was non-significant (p = 0.16). Though most Wolbachia-infected host haplotypes were those found in the contact region between host mtDNA groups, this association was non-significant (p = 0.17). Conclusions: High Wolbachia sequence diversity and the association of Wolbachia with multiple host haplotypes suggest that different Wolbachia strains infected G. f. fuscipes multiple times independently. We suggest that these observations reflect a transient phase in Wolbachia evolution that is influenced by the long gestation and low reproductive output of tsetse. Although G. f. fuscipes is superinfected with Wolbachia, our data does not support that bidirectional CI has influenced host genetic diversity in Uganda.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • MLST
  • Population structure
  • Sequence diversity
  • Wolbachia
  • groEL


Dive into the research topics of 'Wolbachia association with the tsetse fly, Glossina fuscipes fuscipes, reveals high levels of genetic diversity and complex evolutionary dynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this