Absence of Wolbachia in Nonfilariid Nematodes

Seth R. Bordenstein, David H A Fitch, John H. Werren

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Intracellular bacteria of the genus Wolbachia are among the most abundant endosymbionts on the planet, occurring in at least two major phyla - the Arthropoda and Nematoda. Current surveys of Wolbachia distribution have found contrasting patterns within these groups. Whereas Wolbachia are widespread and occur in all three major subphyla of arthropods, with estimates placing them in at least several million arthropod species, the presence of nematodes carrying Wolbachia is currently confined to the filariids, in which they occur at appreciable frequencies. It has been hypothesized that Wolbachia entered the ancestor of modern-day filariids in a single acquisition event, and subsequently cospeciated with their filariid hosts. To further investigate this hypothesis, we examined the broader distribution of Wolbachia in nematodes using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay in a diverse set of nonfilariid species. The assay consisted of three different types of PCR screens on adults of 20 secernentean nematode species (14 rhabditids, 2 strongylid parasites of vertebrates; 1 diplogasterid; 3 cephalobid relatives, 1 myolaim, and 1 filariid) and two adenophorean species (plectids). Two PCR screens were specific to the 16S rDNA and ftsZ protein coding gene of Wolbachia; and the third screen was specific to the 18S rDNA of the nematodes. Based upon our results, we conclude that Wolbachia are absent in all 21 non-filariid species encompassing all the major groups of the Secernentea and two species of Adenophorea, from which the Secernentea derived. The absence of Wolbachia in these non-filariids is consistent with the hypothesis that Wolbachia entered the nematode phylum once, in an ancestral lineage of extant filariids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-270
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nematology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Endosymbiont
  • Filaria
  • Nematode
  • Rhabditid
  • Wolbachia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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