Microbial Ecology

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 205–218 | Cite as

Competition for Amino Acids Between Wolbachia and the Mosquito Host, Aedes aegypti

  • Eric P. Caragata
  • Edwige Rancès
  • Scott L. O’Neill
  • Elizabeth A. McGraw
Invertebrate Microbiology


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.


Blood Meal Blood Cholesterol Level Amino Acid Supplementation Wolbachia Infection Wolbachia Strain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Acknowledgments and Funding

The authors would like to thank Nichola Kenny, Jenny Gough, Yin San Leong, Eliane Moreira and Jack Godrich for technical assistance, Kym French and Sue Rabocyzj for caring for bleeding rats, and the UQ Health Service for bleeding human volunteers. This work was conducted in accordance with The University of Queensland human ethics project number 2007001379 and animal ethics project number SBS/452/09/NIH. This work was supported by grants from the Foundation for the National Institute of Health through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric P. Caragata
    • 1
    • 2
  • Edwige Rancès
    • 1
    • 3
  • Scott L. O’Neill
    • 1
  • Elizabeth A. McGraw
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Unité d’entomologie MédicaleInstitut Pasteur de GuyaneCayenneFrance

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