Associations between Wolbachia, maize and Diabrotica virgifera virgifera
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Diabrotica virgifera virgifera which is infected with Wolbachia, is the most significant and widespread pest to maize in North America and Europe. Wolbachia are obligate intracellular bacteria which seem to be limited to ecdyzoan hosts. Many Wolbachia hosts induce or vector serious human diseases resulting in the loss of millions of lives annually. The majority of differentially expressed genes identified in a microarray experiment performed to locate endogenous sources of D. virgifera virgifera resistance in maize, Zea mays L., are normally involved in microbial defense rather than wounding or insect attack. A second microarray experiment to determine whether Wolbachia were influencing the response of maize to D. virgifera virgifera attack indicated the presence of Wolbachia in the insect can down regulate genes in all plant defense classes. This may contribute to the success of D. virgifera virgifera as a maize pest. To further test this idea, assays on D. virgifera virgifera larval competitiveness and fertility were performed. Results of the assay suggest D. virgifera virgifera and Wolbachia share a commensal association.
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