Phage WO as a vehicle to transform Wolbachia, a symbiont of major crop pests

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Institute of Infection and Global Health


Wolbachia, an obligate intracellular bacterium, is the commonest animal symbiont on Earth. Certain strains have spread throughout arthropod populations worldwide, in part due to the reproductive manipulations they induce in their hosts. Wolbachia can also inhibit the spread of vector-borne diseases, which has led to deliberate releases of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to control dengue fever.

In a remarkable "Russian doll"-like scenario, genes embedded in a prophage control the reproductive manipulations associated with Wolbachia. Lytic phage (viral particles) have also been reported to infect Wolbachia within the arthropod host. This "phage WO" has the potential to allow genetic manipulation of Wolbachia, which to date has not been possible, thus providing a means to enhance its beneficial characteristics.

This project, will identify and sequence phage WO from lepidopteran (moth) pests of agriculture and establish lepidopteran Wolbachia strains in insect cell culture. Using synthetic biology tools and recombineering techniques developed with phage lambda in E. coli, the project will produce novel phages with which to infect Wolbachia in vitro, opening-up prospects to rationally edit its genome and enhance pest control.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011186/1 30/09/2015 31/03/2024
2266743 Studentship BB/M011186/1 30/09/2019 31/12/2023 Philip Dyer