Vertically transmitted rhabdoviruses are found across three insect families and have dynamic interactions with their hosts

Ben Longdon, Jonathan P Day, Nora Schulz, Philip T. Leftwich, Maaike A. de Jong, Casper J. Breuker, Melanie Gibbs, Darren J. Obbard, Lena Wilfert, Sophia C. L. Smith, John E. McGonigle, Thomas M. Houslay, Lucy I. Wright, Luca Livraghi, Luke C. Evans, Lucy A. Friend, Tracey Chapman, John Vontas, Natasa Kambouraki, Francis M. Jiggins

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26 Citations (Scopus)


A small number of free-living viruses have been found to be obligately vertically transmitted, but it remains uncertain how widespread vertically transmitted viruses are and how quickly they can spread through host populations. Recent metagenomic studies have found several insects to be infected with sigma viruses (Rhabdoviridae). Here, we report that sigma viruses that infect Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata), Drosophila immigrans, and speckled wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria) are all vertically transmitted. We find patterns of vertical transmission that are consistent with those seen in Drosophila sigma viruses, with high rates of maternal transmission, and lower rates of paternal transmission. This mode of transmission allows them to spread rapidly in populations, and using viral sequence data we found the viruses in D. immigrans and C. capitata had both recently swept through host populations. The viruses were common in nature, with mean prevalences of 12% in C. capitata, 38% in D. immigrans and 74% in P. aegeria. We conclude that vertically transmitted rhabdoviruses may be widespread in a broad range of insect taxa, and that these viruses can have dynamic interactions with their hosts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20162381
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1847
Early online date18 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2017


  • sigmavirus
  • Wolbachia
  • rhabdoviridae

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