Heritable endosymbionts of flies in the families Drosophilidae and Tephritidae
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Understanding the dynamics and evolution of symbiotic relationships is of major importance for the prevention and treatment of diseases of crops, livestock and humans, as well as for pest control (Zindel et al., 2011). Flies in the families Drosophilidae and Tephritidae, offer a unique opportunity to study aspects about the associations between hosts and endosymbiotic bacteria, because multiple species areinfected by bacteria from one or two genera: Spiroplasma (Class Mollicutes) and Wolbachia (Alfaproteobacteria) (Martínez et al., 2012; Mateos et al., 2006). Some of these bacteria are reproductive parasites, whereas others are not (Werren et al., 2008). Recent studies have revealed that endosymbionts can protect insects against natural enemies (e.g. Xie et al., 2010), which can interfere with biological control approaches.On the other hand, reproductive parasites such as Wolbachia may be used to enhance pest control via the Incompatible Insect Technique (Zabalou et al., 2009). This approach takes advantage of the reproductive failure of females that lack the symbiont when theymate with a male infected with the symbiont. This phenomenon is known as Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (CI). This project seeks to study the aspects of the interactions of Drosophilids and Tephritids with Spiroplasma and Wolbachia, to understand the diversity of associations, their mechanisms, and explore their potential use for pest control. Members of the genus Anastrepha, particularly A. ludens (the MexFly)are pests of great economic importance for Texas and the US (Aluja, 1994).