School of BioSciences - Research Publications

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    A wMel Wolbachia variant in Aedes aegypti from field-collected Drosophila melanogaster with increased phenotypic stability under heat stress.
    Gu, X ; Ross, PA ; Rodriguez-Andres, J ; Robinson, KL ; Yang, Q ; Lau, M-J ; Hoffmann, AA (Wiley, 2022-04)
    Mosquito-borne diseases remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Population replacement strategies involving the wMel strain of Wolbachia are being used widely to control mosquito-borne diseases. However, these strategies may be influenced by temperature because wMel is vulnerable to heat. wMel infections in Drosophila melanogaster are genetically diverse, but few transinfections of wMel variants have been generated in Aedes aegypti. Here, we successfully transferred a wMel variant (termed wMelM) originating from a field-collected D. melanogaster into Ae. aegypti. The new wMelM variant (clade I) is genetically distinct from the original wMel transinfection (clade III), and there are no genomic differences between wMelM in its original and transinfected host. We compared wMelM with wMel in its effects on host fitness, temperature tolerance, Wolbachia density, vector competence, cytoplasmic incompatibility and maternal transmission under heat stress in a controlled background. wMelM showed a higher heat tolerance than wMel, likely due to higher overall densities within the mosquito. Both wMel variants had minimal host fitness costs, complete cytoplasmic incompatibility and maternal transmission, and dengue virus blocking under laboratory conditions. Our results highlight phenotypic differences between Wolbachia variants and wMelM shows potential as an alternative strain in areas with strong seasonal temperature fluctuations.
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    Sex-specific distribution and classification of Wolbachia infections and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups in Aedes albopictus from the Indo-Pacific.
    Yang, Q ; Chung, J ; Robinson, KL ; Schmidt, TL ; Ross, PA ; Liang, J ; Hoffmann, AA ; Kittayapong, P (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2022-04)
    The arbovirus vector Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) is common throughout the Indo-Pacific region, where most global dengue transmission occurs. We analysed population genomic data and tested for cryptic species in 160 Ae. albopictus sampled from 16 locations across this region. We found no evidence of cryptic Ae. albopictus but found multiple intraspecific COI haplotypes partitioned into groups representing three Asian lineages: East Asia, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Papua New Guinea (PNG), Vanuatu and Christmas Island shared recent coancestry, and Indonesia and Timor-Leste were likely invaded from East Asia. We used a machine learning trained on morphologically sexed samples to classify sexes using multiple genetic features and then characterized the wAlbA and wAlbB Wolbachia infections in 664 other samples. The wAlbA and wAlbB infections as detected by qPCR showed markedly different patterns in the sexes. For females, most populations had a very high double infection incidence, with 67% being the lowest value (from Timor-Leste). For males, the incidence of double infections ranged from 100% (PNG) to 0% (Vanuatu). Only 6 females were infected solely by the wAlbA infection, while rare uninfected mosquitoes were found in both sexes. The wAlbA and wAlbB densities varied significantly among populations. For mosquitoes from Torres Strait and Vietnam, the wAlbB density was similar in single-infected and superinfected (wAlbA and wAlbB) mosquitoes. There was a positive association between wAlbA and wAlbB infection densities in superinfected Ae. albopictus. Our findings provide no evidence of cryptic species of Ae. albopictus in the region and suggest site-specific factors influencing the incidence of Wolbachia infections and their densities. We also demonstrate the usefulness of ddRAD tag depths as sex-specific mosquito markers. The results provide baseline data for the exploitation of Wolbachia-induced cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) in dengue control.
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    A decade of stability for wMel Wolbachia in natural Aedes aegypti populations
    Ross, PP ; Robinson, KM ; Yang, Q ; Callahan, AA ; Schmidt, T ; Axford, J ; Coquilleau, MA ; Staunton, K ; Townsend, M ; Ritchie, S ; Lau, M-J ; Gu, X ; Hoffmann, A ; Dimopoulos, G (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2022-02-01)
    Mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia endosymbionts are being released in many countries for arbovirus control. The wMel strain of Wolbachia blocks Aedes-borne virus transmission and can spread throughout mosquito populations by inducing cytoplasmic incompatibility. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying wMel were first released into the field in Cairns, Australia, over a decade ago, and with wider releases have resulted in the near elimination of local dengue transmission. The long-term stability of Wolbachia effects is critical for ongoing disease suppression, requiring tracking of phenotypic and genomic changes in Wolbachia infections following releases. We used a combination of field surveys, phenotypic assessments, and Wolbachia genome sequencing to show that wMel has remained stable in its effects for up to a decade in Australian Ae. aegypti populations. Phenotypic comparisons of wMel-infected and uninfected mosquitoes from near-field and long-term laboratory populations suggest limited changes in the effects of wMel on mosquito fitness. Treating mosquitoes with antibiotics used to cure the wMel infection had limited effects on fitness in the next generation, supporting the use of tetracycline for generating uninfected mosquitoes without off-target effects. wMel has a temporally stable within-host density and continues to induce complete cytoplasmic incompatibility. A comparison of wMel genomes from pre-release (2010) and nine years post-release (2020) populations show few genomic differences and little divergence between release locations, consistent with the lack of phenotypic changes. These results indicate that releases of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes for population replacement are likely to be effective for many years, but ongoing monitoring remains important to track potential evolutionary changes.
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    Differential toxicological effects of natural and synthetic sources and enantiomeric forms of limonene on mosquito larvae
    Ross, PA ; Nematollahi, N ; Steinemann, A ; Kolev, SD ; Hoffmann, AA (SPRINGER, 2021-10-20)
    Abstract Common fragranced consumer products, such as cleaning supplies and personal care products, emit chiral compounds such as limonene that have been associated with adverse effects on human health. However, those same compounds abound in nature, and at similar concentrations as in products, but without the same apparent adverse human health effects. We investigated whether different types of limonene may elicit different biological effects. In this study, we investigated the mortality rate of mosquito larvae in response to changes in their environment. Specifically, we tested different sources of naturally occurring R-limonene and chemically synthetized limonene, containing one of its enantiomeric forms (R-, S-) in mortality bioassays with Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae. We found that a natural source of limonene extracted from oranges induced lower mortality of mosquito larvae compared to synthetic sources at the same concentration. However, enantiomeric forms did not differ in their effects on mortality. Our results provide novel evidence that natural sources of a chemical can cause lower rates of mortality than synthetic sources.
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    Limonene Emissions: Do Different Types Have Different Biological Effects?
    Nematollahi, N ; Ross, PA ; Hoffmann, AA ; Kolev, SD ; Steinemann, A (MDPI, 2021-10-01)
    Limonene is one of the most abundant pollutants indoors, and it contributes to the formation of additional pollutants, such as formaldehyde and photochemical smog. Limonene is commonly used in fragranced consumer products, such as cleaning supplies and air fresheners, which have also been associated with health problems. Limonene can exist in different enantiomeric forms (R-limonene and S-limonene) and be derived from different sources. However, little is known about whether different forms and sources of limonene may have different effects. This research explored whether different types of limonene, at the same concentrations, could elicit different biological effects. To investigate this question, the study employed Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which have sophisticated olfactory abilities, in olfactometer tests of repellency/attraction. The results indicate that a synthetic source of R-limonene is more repellent than a natural source of R-limonene. In addition, synthetic sources of both R-limonene and S-limonene are not significantly different in repellency. These findings can contribute to our understanding and further exploration of the effects of a common fragrance compound on air quality and health.
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    Genetic stability of Aedes aegypti populations following invasion by wMel Wolbachia
    Lau, M-J ; Schmidt, TL ; Yang, Q ; Chung, J ; Sankey, L ; Ross, PA ; Hoffmann, AA (BMC, 2021-12-14)
    BACKGROUND: Wolbachia wMel is the most commonly used strain in rear and release strategies for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that aim to inhibit the transmission of arboviruses such as dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and yellow fever. However, the long-term establishment of wMel in natural Ae. aegypti populations raises concerns that interactions between Wolbachia wMel and Ae. aegypti may lead to changes in the host genome, which could affect useful attributes of Wolbachia that allow it to invade and suppress disease transmission. RESULTS: We applied an evolve-and-resequence approach to study genome-wide genetic changes in Ae. aegypti from the Cairns region, Australia, where Wolbachia wMel was first introduced more than 10 years ago. Mosquito samples were collected at three different time points in Gordonvale, Australia, covering the phase before (2010) and after (2013 and 2018) Wolbachia releases. An additional three locations where Wolbachia replacement happened at different times across the last decade were also sampled in 2018. We found that the genomes of mosquito populations mostly remained stable after Wolbachia release, with population differences tending to reflect the geographic location of the populations rather than Wolbachia infection status. However, outlier analysis suggests that Wolbachia may have had an influence on some genes related to immune response, development, recognition and behavior. CONCLUSIONS: Ae. aegypti populations remained geographically distinct after Wolbachia wMel releases in North Australia despite their Wolbachia infection status. At some specific genomic loci, we found signs of selection associated with Wolbachia, suggesting potential evolutionary impacts can happen in the future and further monitoring is warranted.
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    High Incidence of Related Wolbachia across Unrelated Leaf-Mining Diptera
    Xu, X ; Ridland, PM ; Umina, PA ; Gill, A ; Ross, PA ; Pirtle, E ; Hoffmann, AA (MDPI, 2021-09-01)
    The maternally inherited endosymbiont, Wolbachia pipientis, plays an important role in the ecology and evolution of many of its hosts by affecting host reproduction and fitness. Here, we investigated 13 dipteran leaf-mining species to characterize Wolbachia infections and the potential for this endosymbiont in biocontrol. Wolbachia infections were present in 12 species, including 10 species where the Wolbachia infection was at or near fixation. A comparison of Wolbachia relatedness based on the wsp/MLST gene set showed that unrelated leaf-mining species often shared similar Wolbachia, suggesting common horizontal transfer. We established a colony of Liriomyza brassicae and found adult Wolbachia density was stable; although Wolbachia density differed between the sexes, with females having a 20-fold higher density than males. Wolbachia density increased during L. brassicae development, with higher densities in pupae than larvae. We removed Wolbachia using tetracycline and performed reciprocal crosses between Wolbachia-infected and uninfected individuals. Cured females crossed with infected males failed to produce offspring, indicating that Wolbachia induced complete cytoplasmic incompatibility in L. brassicae. The results highlight the potential of Wolbachia to suppress Liriomyza pests based on approaches such as the incompatible insect technique, where infected males are released into populations lacking Wolbachia or with a different incompatible infection.
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    Infertility and fecundity loss of Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti hatched from quiescent eggs is expected to alter invasion dynamics
    Lau, M-J ; Ross, PA ; Hoffmann, AA ; Gillespie, JJ (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2021-02-01)
    The endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia shows viral blocking in its mosquito host, leading to its use in arboviral disease control. Releases with Wolbachia strains wMel and wAlbB infecting Aedes aegypti have taken place in several countries. Mosquito egg survival is a key factor influencing population persistence and this trait is also important when eggs are stored prior to releases. We therefore tested the viability of mosquitoes derived from Wolbachia wMel and wAlbB-infected as well as uninfected eggs after long-term storage under diurnal temperature cycles of 11-19°C and 22-30°C. Eggs stored at 11-19°C had higher hatch proportions than those stored at 22-30°C. Adult Wolbachia density declined when they emerged from eggs stored for longer, which was associated with incomplete cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) when wMel-infected males were crossed with uninfected females. Females from stored eggs at both temperatures continued to show perfect maternal transmission of Wolbachia, but storage reduced the fecundity of both wMel and wAlbB-infected females relative to uninfected mosquitoes. Furthermore, we found a very strong negative impact of the wAlbB infection on the fertility of females stored at 22-30°C, with almost 80% of females hatching after 11 weeks of storage being infertile. Our findings provide guidance for storing Wolbachia-infected A. aegypti eggs to ensure high fitness adult mosquitoes for release. Importantly, they also highlight the likely impact of egg quiescence on the population dynamics of Wolbachia-infected populations in the field, and the potential for Wolbachia to suppress mosquito populations through cumulative fitness costs across warm and dry periods, with expected effects on dengue transmission.
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    Small females prefer small males: size assortative mating in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes
    Callahan, AG ; Ross, PA ; Hoffmann, AA (BMC, 2018-08-02)
    BACKGROUND: With Aedes aegypti mosquitoes now being released in field programmes aimed at disease suppression, there is interest in identifying factors influencing the mating and invasion success of released mosquitoes. One factor that can increase release success is size: released males may benefit competitively from being larger than their field counterparts. However, there could be a risk in releasing only large males if small field females avoid these males and instead prefer small males. Here we investigate this risk by evaluating mating success for mosquitoes differing in size. RESULTS: We measured mating success indirectly by coupling size with Wolbachia-infected or uninfected mosquitoes and scoring cytoplasmic incompatibility. Large females showed no evidence of a mating preference, whereas small males were relatively more successful than large males when mating with small females, exhibiting an advantage of around 20-25%. CONCLUSIONS: Because field females typically encompass a wide range of sizes while laboratory reared (and released) males typically fall into a narrow size range of large mosquitoes, these patterns can influence the success of release programmes which rely on cytoplasmic incompatibility to suppress populations and initiate replacement invasions. Releases could include some small males generated under low food or crowded conditions to counter this issue, although this would need to be weighed against issues associated with costs of producing males of various size classes.
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    Costs of Three Wolbachia Infections on the Survival of Aedes aegypti Larvae under Starvation Conditions
    Ross, PA ; Endersby, NM ; Hoffmann, AA ; Kittayapong, P (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2016-01-01)
    The mosquito Aedes aegypti, the principal vector of dengue virus, has recently been infected experimentally with Wolbachia: intracellular bacteria that possess potential as dengue biological control agents. Wolbachia depend on their hosts for nutrients they are unable to synthesize themselves. Consequently, competition between Wolbachia and their host for resources could reduce host fitness under the competitive conditions commonly experienced by larvae of Ae. aegypti in the field, hampering the invasion of Wolbachia into natural mosquito populations. We assess the survival and development of Ae. aegypti larvae under starvation conditions when infected with each of three experimentally-generated Wolbachia strains: wMel, wMelPop and wAlbB, and compare their fitness to wild-type uninfected larvae. We find that all three Wolbachia infections reduce the survival of larvae relative to those that are uninfected, and the severity of the effect is concordant with previously characterized fitness costs to other life stages. We also investigate the ability of larvae to recover from extended food deprivation and find no effect of Wolbachia on this trait. Aedes aegypti larvae of all infection types were able to resume their development after one month of no food, pupate rapidly, emerge at a large size, and exhibit complete cytoplasmic incompatibility and maternal transmission. A lowered ability of Wolbachia-infected larvae to survive under starvation conditions will increase the threshold infection frequency required for Wolbachia to establish in highly competitive natural Ae. aegypti populations and will also reduce the speed of invasion. This study also provides insights into survival strategies of larvae when developing in stressful environments.