Male Age and Wolbachia Dynamics: Investigating How Fast and Why Bacterial Densities and Cytoplasmic Incompatibility Strengths Vary

J. Dylan Shropshire, Emily Hamant, Brandon S. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Endosymbionts can influence host reproduction and fitness to favor their maternal transmission. For example, endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria often cause cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) that kills uninfected embryos fertilized by Wolbachia-modified sperm. Infected females can rescue CI, providing them a relative fitness advantage. Wolbachia-induced CI strength varies widely and tends to decrease as host males age. Since strong CI drives Wolbachia to high equilibrium frequencies, understanding how fast and why CI strength declines with male age is crucial to explaining age-dependent CI's influence on Wolbachia prevalence. Here, we investigate if Wolbachia densities and/or CI gene (cif) expression covary with CI-strength variation and explore covariates of age-dependent Wolbachia-density variation in two classic CI systems. wRi CI strength decreases slowly with Drosophila simulans male age (6%/day), but wMel CI strength decreases very rapidly (19%/day), yielding statistically insignificant CI after only 3 days of Drosophila melanogaster adult emergence. Wolbachia densities and cif expression in testes decrease as wRi-infected males age, but both surprisingly increase as wMel-infected males age, and CI strength declines. We then tested if phage lysis, Octomom copy number (which impacts wMel density), or host immune expression covary with age-dependent wMel densities. Only host immune expression correlated with density. Together, our results identify how fast CI strength declines with male age in two model systems and reveal unique relationships between male age, Wolbachia densities, cif expression, and host immunity. We discuss new hypotheses about the basis of age-dependent CI strength and its contributions to Wolbachia prevalence.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0299821
JournalmBio
Volume12
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Drosophila
  • Immunity
  • Symbiosis
  • WMel
  • WRi

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