Depletion of host cell riboflavin reduces Wolbachia levels in cultured mosquito cells

Ann M. Fallon, Gerald D. Baldridge, Elissa M. Carroll, Cassandra M. Kurtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Wolbachia is an obligate intracellular alphaproteobacterium that occurs in arthropod and nematode hosts. Wolbachia presumably provides a fitness benefit to its hosts, but the basis for its retention and spread in host populations remains unclear. Wolbachia genomes retain biosynthetic pathways for some vitamins, and the possibility that these vitamins benefit host cells provides a potential means of selecting for Wolbachia-infected cell lines. To explore whether riboflavin produced by Wolbachia is available to its host cell, we established that growth of uninfected C7-10 mosquito cells decreases in riboflavin-depleted culture medium. A well-studied inhibitor of riboflavin uptake, lumiflavin, further inhibits growth of uninfected C7-10 cells with an LC50 of approximately 12 μg/ml. Growth of C/wStr1 mosquito cells, infected with Wolbachia from the planthopper, Laodelphax striatellus, was enhanced in medium containing low levels of lumiflavin, but Wolbachia levels decreased. Lumiflavin-enhanced growth thus resembled the improved growth that accompanies treatment with antibiotics that deplete Wolbachia, rather than a metabolic advantage provided by the Wolbachia infection. We used the polymerase chain reaction to validate the decrease in Wolbachia abundance and evaluated our results in the context of a proteomic analysis in which we detected nearly 800 wStr proteins. Our data indicate that Wolbachia converts riboflavin to FMN and FAD for its own metabolic needs, and does not provide a source of riboflavin for its host cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-713
Number of pages7
JournalIn Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Animal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This work was supported by the NIH grant AI081322 and by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN. We thank John Beckmann for comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, The Society for In Vitro Biology.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Lumiflavin
  • Mosquito cell line
  • Proteomics
  • Riboflavin
  • Selection
  • Wolbachia


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