Data from: Phenotypic shift in Wolbachia virulence towards its native host across serial horizontal passages
Le Clec'h, Winka et al. (2017), Data from: Phenotypic shift in Wolbachia virulence towards its native host across serial horizontal passages, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.f6rc2
Vertical transmission mode is predicted to decrease the virulence of symbionts. However, Wolbachia, a widespread vertically transmitted endosymbiont, exhibits both negative and beneficial effects on arthropod fitness. This ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ behaviour, as well as its ability to live transiently outside host cells and to establish new infections via horizontal transmission, may reflect the capacity of Wolbachia to exhibit various phenotypes depending on the prevailing environmental constraints. To study the ability of Wolbachia to readily cope with new constraints, we forced this endosymbiont to spread only via horizontal transmission. To achieve this, we performed serial horizontal transfers of haemolymph from Wolbachia-infected to naive individuals of the isopod Armadillidium vulgare. Across passages, we observed phenotypic changes in the symbiotic relationship: (i) The Wolbachia titre increased in both haemolymph and nerve cord but remained stable in ovaries; (ii) Wolbachia infection was benign at the beginning of the experiment, but highly virulent, killing most hosts after only a few passages. Such a phenotypic shift after recurrent horizontal passages demonstrates that Wolbachia can rapidly change its virulence when facing new environmental constraints. We thoroughly discuss the potential mechanism(s) underlying this phenotypic change, which are likely to be crucial for the ongoing radiation of Wolbachia in arthropods.