The endosymbiont Wolbachia represents a promising method of dengue control, as it reduces the ability of the primary vector, the mosquito Aedes aegypti, to transmit viruses. When mosquitoes infected with the virulent Wolbachia strain wMelPop are fed non-human blood, there is a drastic reduction in mosquito fecundity and egg viability. Wolbachia has a reduced genome and is clearly dependent on its host for a wide range of nutritional needs. The fitness defects seen in wMelPop-infected A. aegypti could be explained by competition between the mosquito and the symbiont for essential blood meal nutrients, the profiles of which are suboptimal in non-human blood. Here, we examine cholesterol and amino acids as candidate molecules for competition, as they have critical roles in egg structural development and are known to vary between blood sources. We found that Wolbachia infection reduces total cholesterol levels in mosquitoes by 15-25 %. We then showed that cholesterol supplementation of a rat blood meal did not improve fecundity or egg viability deficits. Conversely, amino acid supplementation of sucrose before and after a sheep blood meal led to statistically significant increases in fecundity of approximately 15-20 eggs per female and egg viability of 30-40 %. This mosquito system provides the first empirical evidence of competition between Wolbachia and a host over amino acids and may suggest a general feature of Wolbachia-insect associations. These competitive processes could affect many aspects of host physiology and potentially mosquito fitness, a key concern for Wolbachia-based mosquito biocontrol.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science