Student Research Projects

Wolbachia Infection in a Local Species of the Common Fruit Fly, Drosophila melanogaster

Student Amanda Hyre '14
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course BIO 489: Research in Natural Sciences


Wolbachia are obligate, intracellular prokaryotic endosymbionts present in a wide variety of arthropod hosts. It is estimated that from 20-70 per cent of insect species harbor this organism. The endosymbiont is maternally inherited. In some species, certain strains of Wolbachia are known to affect reproduction in a number of different ways, including: feminization of males, male killing, or reproductive isolation due to cytoplasmic incompatibility between infected and uninfected insects. A locally obtained strain of fruit fly is shown to be infected with Wolbachia, as detected by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the gene for a conserved Wolbachia surface protein (wsp). This strain has been ‘cured’ of the endosymbiont by treatment with the antibiotic tetracycline. Here it is demonstrated that cultures derived from Wolbachia-infected females produce significantly fewer progeny than cultures from uninfected females. The maternal inheritance of Wolbachia in the local strain is supported by PCR analysis of crosses involving pair-wise combinations of infected and uninfected fly strains.