Zélé, F., Altıntas, M., Santos, I., Cakmak, I. & Magalhães, S. (2020) Population-specific effect of Wolbachia on the cost of fungal infection in spider mites.Ecology and Evolution, 10(9), 3868-3880. DOI:10.1002/ece3.6015 (IF2020 2,912; Q2 Ecology)
Many studies have revealed the ability of the endosymbiotic bacteria Wolbachia to protect its arthropod hosts against diverse pathogens. However, as Wolbachia may also increase the susceptibility of its host to infection, predicting the outcome of a particular Wolbachia-host-pathogen interaction remains elusive. Yet, understanding such interactions is crucial for disease and pest control strategies. Tetranychus urticae spider mites are herbivorous crop pests, causing severe damage on numerous economically important crops. Due to the rapid evolution of pesticide resistance, biological control strategies using generalist entomopathogenic are being developed. However, although spider mites are infected with various Wolbachia strains worldwide, whether this endosymbiont protects them from fungi is as yet unknown. Here, we compared the survival of two populations, treated with antibiotics or harbouring different Wolbachia strains, after exposure to the fungal biocontrol agents Metarhizium brunneum and Beauveria bassiana. In one population, Wolbachia affected survival in absence of fungi but not in their presence, whereas in the other population Wolbachia increased the mortality induced by B. bassiana. To control for potential effects of the bacterial community of spider mites, we also compared the susceptibility of two populations naturally uninfected by Wolbachia, treated with antibiotics or not. The antibiotic treatment increased the susceptibility of spider mites to M. brunneum in one naturally Wolbachia-uninfected population, but it had no effect in the other treatments. These results highlight the complexity of within-host pathogens interactions, and the importance of considering the whole bacterial community of arthropods when assessing the effect of Wolbachia in a particular system.