The microbiome composition of Aedes aegypti is not critical for Wolbachia-mediated inhibition of dengue virus

Citation: Audsley MD, Ye YH, McGraw EA (2017) The microbiome composition of Aedes aegypti is not critical for Wolbachia-mediated inhibition of dengue virus. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 11(3): e0005426.
Published: March 7, 2017

Background: Dengue virus (DENV) is primarily vectored by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, and is estimated to cause 390 million human infections annually. A novel method for DENV control involves stable transinfection of Ae. aegypti with the common insect endosymbiont Wolbachia, which mediates an antiviral effect. However, the mechanism by which Wolbachia reduces the susceptibility of Ae. aegypti to DENV is not fully understood. In this study we assessed the potential of resident microbiota, which can play important roles in insect physiology and immune responses, to affect Wolbachia-mediated DENV blocking.
Methodology/Findings: The microbiome of Ae. aegypti stably infected with Wolbachia strain wMel was compared to that of Ae. aegypti without Wolbachia, using 16s rDNA profiling. Our results indicate that although Wolbachia affected the relative abundance of several genera, the microbiome of both the Wolbachia-infected and uninfected mosquitoes was dominated by Elizabethkingia and unclassified Enterobacteriaceae. To assess the potential of the resident microbiota to affect the Wolbachia-mediated antiviral effect, we used antibiotic treatment before infection with DENV by blood-meal. In spite of a significant shift in the microbiome composition in response to the antibiotics, we detected no effect of antibiotic treatment on DENV infection rates, or on the DENV load of infected mosquitoes.
Conclusions/Significance: Our findings indicate that stable infection with Wolbachia strain wMel produces few effects on the microbiome of laboratory-reared Ae. aegypti. Moreover, our findings suggest that the microbiome can be significantly altered without affecting the fundamental DENV blocking phenotype in these mosquitoes. Since Ae. aegypti are likely to encounter diverse microbiota in the field, this is a particularly important result in the context of using Wolbachia as a method for DENV control.

Author summary: Dengue virus is transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti and can cause dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever in humans. The World Health Organization currently considers it as the most important mosquito-borne virus globally. One method to control dengue infection of Ae. aegypti is to infect the mosquito with a common bacterium, Wolbachia, which increases the mosquito’s resistance to dengue virus. The mechanism by which resistance to dengue virus occurs is not well understood. Here, we considered whether other bacteria that reside in the mosquito might affect the ability of Wolbachia to limit dengue virus infection. First, we assessed whether Wolbachia had an impact on the abundance of bacterial species present in Ae. aegypti, finding that it had minimal effects. Second, we altered the composition of the bacterial species present by treating Ae. aegypti with antibiotics, then examined whether this affected Wolbachia’s antiviral effect. We found that there was no difference in the susceptibility of the mosquitoes to dengue virus, regardless of antibiotic treatment. We therefore conclude that it is unlikely that there are specific resident bacteria required for the principal mechanism(s) by which Wolbachia reduces susceptibility of Ae. aegypti to dengue virus.


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