Density dynamics of diverse Spiroplasma strains naturally infecting different species of Drosophila.Fly (Austin). 2013 Jul-Sep; 7(3):204-10.F
Facultative heritable bacterial endosymbionts can have dramatic effects on their hosts, ranging from mutualistic to parasitic. Within-host bacterial endosymbiont density plays a critical role in maintenance of a symbiotic relationship, as it can affect levels of vertical transmission and expression of phenotypic effects, both of which influence the infection prevalence in host populations. Species of genus Drosophila are infected with Spiroplasma, whose characterized phenotypic effects range from that of a male-killing reproductive parasite to beneficial defensive endosymbiont. For many strains of Spiroplasma infecting at least 17 species of Drosophila, however, the phenotypic effects are obscure. The infection prevalence of these Spiroplasma vary within and among Drosophila species, and little is known about the within-host density dynamics of these diverse strains. To characterize the patterns of Spiroplasma density variation among Drosophila we used quantitative PCR to assess bacterial titer at various life stages of three species of Drosophila naturally-infected with two different types of Spiroplasma. For naturally infected Drosophila species we found that non-male-killing infections had consistently lower densities than the male-killing infection. The patterns of Spiroplasma titer change during aging varied among Drosophila species infected with different Spiroplasma strains. Bacterial density varied within and among populations of Drosophila, with individuals from the population with the highest prevalence of infection having the highest density. This density variation underscores the complex interaction of Spiroplasma strain and host genetic background in determining endosymbiont density.