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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Mito-nuclear genetic comparison in a Wolbachia infected weevil: insights on reproductive mode, infection age and evolutionary forces shaping genetic variation

Marcela S Rodriguero1*, Analía A Lanteri2 and Viviana A Confalonieri1

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1428, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina

2 División Entomología, Museo de La Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, 1900, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:340  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-340

Published: 4 November 2010



Maternally inherited endosymbionts like Wolbachia pipientis are in linkage disequilibrium with the mtDNA of their hosts. Therefore, they can induce selective sweeps, decreasing genetic diversity over many generations. This sex ratio distorter, that is involved in the origin of parthenogenesis and other reproductive alterations, infects the parthenogenetic weevil Naupactus cervinus, a serious pest of ornamental and fruit plants.


Molecular evolution analyses of mitochondrial (COI) and nuclear (ITS1) sequences from 309 individuals of Naupactus cervinus sampled over a broad range of its geographical distribution were carried out. Our results demonstrate lack of recombination in the nuclear fragment, non-random association between nuclear and mitochondrial genomes and the consequent coevolution of both genomes, being an indirect evidence of apomixis. This weevil is infected by a single Wolbachia strain, which could have caused a moderate bottleneck in the invaded population which survived the initial infection.


Clonal reproduction and Wolbachia infection induce the coevolution of bacterial, mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. The time elapsed since the Wolbachia invasion would have erased the traces of the demographic crash in the mtDNA, being the nuclear genome the only one that retained the signal of the bottleneck. The amount of genetic change accumulated in the mtDNA and the high prevalence of Wolbachia in all populations of N. cervinus agree with the hypothesis of an ancient infection. Wolbachia probably had great influence in shaping the genetic diversity of N. cervinus. However, it would have not caused the extinction of males, since sexual and asexual infected lineages coexisted until recent times.