Thursday, April 5, 2012

No "Wiggle Room" with Wigglesworthia

Wigglesworthia glossinidia is found within the gut of the Tsetse fly, Glossina spp., living as an endosymbiont. It is the primary endosymbiont, sharing the host with secondary endosymbiont, Sodalis glossinidius. W. glossinidia have developed an obligatory mutualistic relationship with tsetse flies, co-evolving over millions of years, and therefore share global distributions; their being located within sub-saharan Africa.[1]

Description of the Relationship
The bacterial endosymbiont, W. glossinidia is a gram-negative rod shaped bacteria of the family Enterobacteriaceae, that is transferred to the progeny of the tsetse fly through milk given by the mother.[2] Having a defined history of co-evolution the pair grow in tandem and are an essential part of each others lives from the beginning. W. glossinidia lives within specialized cells called mycetocytes and cannot be successfully cultured outside of the tsetse fly host.[1] Studies have shown that tsetse flies that are fed meals laced with antibiotics suffer from reduced fecundity and produced progeny that do not house the symbiotic relationship with W. glossinidia.[1][2][3]
Mycetocyte in tsetse fly gut

Cost/Benefit Analysis

W. glossinidia offers Glossina spp. synthesized vitamins that Glossina is unable to acquire directly from its blood meals. This is why the absence of W. glossinidia is so detrimental to the tsetse fly, resulting in a severe decrease in life span and successful progeny. This benefit comes at the cost of increased susceptibility to trypanosome infection within Glossina.[3]

Glossina spp. offers W. glossinidia protection and a place to live at the cost of having its genome greatly reduced due to extended interaction and co-evolution. W. glossinidia possesses one of the smallest genomes of any living organism.[1]


  1. Dale, C., and S. C. Welburn. "The endosymbionts of tsetse flies: manipulating host-parasite interactions." International Journal of Parasitology 31. 5-6 (2001): 628-631. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <>.
  2. Aksoy, Serap, et. al. "Prospects for control of African trypanosomiasis by tsetse vector manipulation." Trends in Parasitology 17. 1 (2001): 29-35. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <>
  3.  Pais, Roshan, et. al. "The Obligate Mutualist Wigglesworthia glossinidia Influences Reproduction, Digestion, and Immunity Processes of Its Host, the Tsetse Fly." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74. 19 (2008): 5965-5974. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <>

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