Virus-like Particles from Wolbachia-Infected Cells May Include a Gene Transfer Agent

Ann M. Fallon, Elissa M Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Wolbachia are obligate intracellular bacteria that occur in insects and filarial worms. Strains that infect insects have genomes that encode mobile genetic elements, including diverse lambda-like prophages called Phage WO. Phage WO packages an approximately 65 kb viral genome that includes a unique eukaryotic association module, or EAM, that encodes unusually large proteins thought to mediate interactions between the bacterium, its virus, and the eukaryotic host cell. The Wolbachia supergroup B strain, wStri from the planthopper Laodelphax striatellus, produces phage-like particles that can be recovered from persistently infected mosquito cells by ultracentrifugation. Illumina sequencing, assembly, and manual curation of DNA from two independent preparations converged on an identical 15,638 bp sequence that encoded packaging, assembly, and structural proteins. The absence of an EAM and regulatory genes defined for Phage WO from the wasp, Nasonia vitripennis, was consistent with the possibility that the 15,638 bp sequence represents an element related to a gene transfer agent (GTA), characterized by a signature head–tail region encoding structural proteins that package host chromosomal DNA. Future investigation of GTA function will be supported by the improved recovery of physical particles, electron microscopic examination of potential diversity among particles, and rigorous examination of DNA content by methods independent of sequence assembly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number516
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • +1 ribosomal frameshift
  • alpha-proteobacteria
  • bacteriophage
  • GH_25 hydrolase
  • GTA
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • mosquito cell culture

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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