The obligate intracellular bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis (Rickettsiales), is a widespread, vertically transmitted endosymbiont of filarial nematodes and arthropods. In insects, Wolbachia modifies reproduction, and in mosquitoes, infection interferes with replication of arboviruses, bacteria and plasmodia. Development of Wolbachia as a tool to control pest insects will be facilitated by an understanding of molecular events that underlie genetic exchange between Wolbachia strains. Here, we used nucleotide sequence, transcriptional and proteomic analyses to evaluate expression levels and establish the mosaic nature of genes flanking the T4SS virB8-D4 operon from wStr, a supergroup B-strain from a planthopper (Hemiptera) that maintains a robust, persistent infection in an Aedes albopictus mosquito cell line. Based on protein abundance, ribA, which contains promoter elements at the 5′-end of the operon, is weakly expressed. The 3′-end of the operon encodes an intact wspB, which encodes an outer membrane protein and is co-transcribed with the vir genes. WspB and vir proteins are expressed at similar, above average abundance levels. In wStr, both ribA and wspB are mosaics of conserved sequence motifs from Wolbachia supergroup A- and B-strains, and wspB is nearly identical to its homolog from wCobU4-2, an A-strain from weevils (Coleoptera). We describe conserved repeated sequence elements that map within or near pseudogene lesions and transitions between A- and B-strain motifs. These studies contribute to ongoing efforts to explore interactions between Wolbachia and its host cell in an in vitro system.
- Mosaic genes