Towards improving tsetse fly paratransgenesis: stable colonization of Glossina morsitans morsitans with genetically modified Sodalis

Linda De Vooght, Severien Van Keer, Jan Van Den Abbeele

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    Background: Tsetse flies (Glossina sp.) refractory to trypanosome infection are currently being explored as potential tools to contribute in the control of human and animal African trypanosomiasis. One approach to disrupt trypanosome transmission by the tsetse fly vector involves the use of paratransgenesis, a technique that aims to reduce vector competence of disease vectors via genetic modification of their microbiota. An important prerequisite for developing paratransgenic tsetse flies is the stable repopulation of tsetse flies and their progeny with its genetically modified Sodalis symbiont without interfering with host fitness.

    Results: In this study, we assessed by qPCR analysis the ability of a chromosomally GFP-tagged Sodalis (recSodalis) strain to efficiently colonize various tsetse tissues and its transmission to the next generation of offspring using different introduction approaches. When introduced in the adult stage of the fly via thoracic microinjection, recSodalis is maintained at high densities for at least 21days. However, no vertical transmission to the offspring was observed. Oral administration of recSodalis did not lead to the colonization of either adult flies or their offspring. Finally, introduction of recSodalis via microinjection of third-instar larvae resulted in stably colonized adult tsetse flies. Moreover, the subsequent generations of offspring were also efficiently colonized with recSodalis. We show that proper colonization of the female reproductive tissues by recSodalis is an important determinant for vertical transmission.

    Conclusions: Intralarval microinjection of recSodalis proves to be essential to achieve optimal colonization of flies with genetically modified Sodalis and its subsequent dissemination into the following generations of progeny. This study provides the proof-of-concept that Sodalis can be used to drive expression of exogenous transgenes in Glossina morsitans morsitans colonies representing a valuable contribution to the development of a paratransgenic tsetse fly based control strategy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number165
    JournalBMC Microbiology
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Paratransgenesis
    • Glossina
    • Sodalis glossinidius
    • Colonization
    • Transmission
    • GFP


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