Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 24498078
PLoS ONE 2014;9(1):e87336
Many insect species harbor Wolbachia bacteria that induce cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), i.e. embryonic lethality in crosses between infected males and uninfected females, or between males and females carrying incompatible Wolbachia strains. The molecular mechanism of CI remains unknown, but the available data are best interpreted under a modification-rescue model, where a mod function disables the reproductive success of infected males’ sperm, unless the eggs are infected and express a compatible resc function. Here we examine the evolution of CI in the mosquito Culex pipiens, harbouring a large number of closely related Wolbachia strains structured in five distinct phylogenetic groups. Specifically, we used a worldwide sample of mosquito lines to assess the hypothesis that genetic divergence should correlate with the divergence of CI properties on a low evolutionary scale. We observed a significant association of Wolbachia genetic divergence with CI patterns. Most Wolbachia strains from the same group were compatible whereas those from different groups were often incompatible. Consistently, we found a strong association between Wolbachia groups and their mod-resc properties. Finally, lines from the same geographical area were rarely incompatible, confirming the conjecture that the spatial distribution of Wolbachia compatibility types should be constrained by selection. This study indicates a clear correlation between Wolbachia genotypes and CI properties, paving the way toward the identification of the molecular basis of CI through comparative genomics.