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Association of Wolbachia with Gene Expression in Drosophila Testes


Wolbachia is a genus of intracellular symbiotic bacteria that are widely distributed in arthropods and nematodes. These maternally inherited bacteria regulate host reproductive systems in various ways to facilitate their vertical transmission. Since the identification of Wolbachia in many insects, the relationship between Wolbachia and the host has attracted great interest. Numerous studies have indicated that Wolbachia modifies a variety of biological processes in the host. Previous studies in Drosophila melanogaster (D. melanogaster) have demonstrated that Wolbachia can affect spermatid differentiation, chromosome deposition, and sperm activity in the early stages of spermatogenesis, leading to sperm dysfunction. Here, we explored the putative effect of Wolbachia in sperm maturation using transcriptomic approaches to compare gene expression in Wolbachia-infected and Wolbachia-free D. melanogaster adult testes. Our findings show that Wolbachia affects many biological processes in D. melanogaster adult testes, and most of the differentially expressed genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, lysosomal degradation, proteolysis, lipid metabolism, and immune response were upregulated in the presence of Wolbachia. In contrast, some genes that are putatively associated with cutin and wax biosynthesis and peroxisome pathways were downregulated. We did not find any differentially expressed genes that are predicted to be related to spermatogenesis in the datasets. This work provides additional information for understanding the Wolbachia-host intracellular relationships.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available in the SRA database at NCBI, with the accession number of PRJNA639180.

Code Availability

Not applicable.


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We would like to thank Haoyuan Hu for donating fruit fly.


This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. of 31830084, 31970440, and 31672336), and also supported by the construction funds for the “Double First-Class” initiative for Nankai University (Nos. 96172158, 96173250, and 91822294).

Author information




Jinhua Xiao and Dawei Huang conceived the study. Weihao Dou analyzed the data, performed QPCR verification, and wrote the paper. Yunheng Miao provided valuable suggestions on the revision of the paper and the use of some software. All authors have read and approved the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jinhua Xiao or Dawei Huang.

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The funders had no role in study design, data analysis, and manuscript drafting.

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Dou, W., Miao, Y., Xiao, J. et al. Association of Wolbachia with Gene Expression in Drosophila Testes. Microb Ecol 82, 805–817 (2021).

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  • Wolbachia
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Transcriptomic
  • Intracellular relationship
  • Spermatogenesis