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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Antibiotic treatment leads to the elimination of Wolbachia endosymbionts and sterility in the diplodiploid collembolan Folsomia candida

Nathan Pike* and Rachel Kingcombe

Author Affiliations

Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK

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BMC Biology 2009, 7:54  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-54

Published: 24 August 2009



Wolbachia is an extremely widespread bacterial endosymbiont of arthropods and nematodes that causes a variety of reproductive peculiarities. Parthenogenesis is one such peculiarity but it has been hypothesised that this phenomenon may be functionally restricted to organisms that employ haplodiploid sex determination. Using two antibiotics, tetracycline and rifampicin, we attempted to eliminate Wolbachia from the diplodiploid host Folsomia candida, a species of springtail which is a widely used study organism.


Molecular assays confirmed that elimination of Wolbachia was successfully achieved through continuous exposure of populations (over two generations and several weeks) to rifampicin administered as 2.7% dry weight of their yeast food source. The consequence of this elimination was total sterility of all individuals, despite the continuation of normal egg production.


Microbial endosymbionts play an obligatory role in the reproduction of their diplodiploid host, most likely one in which the parthenogenetic process is facilitated by Wolbachia. A hitherto unknown level of host-parasite interdependence is thus recorded.