Research Article

A phylogenetic analysis of filarial nematodes: comparison with the phylogeny of Wolbachia endosymbionts

M.  CASIRAGHI  a1, T. J. C.  ANDERSON  a1 p1, C.  BANDI  a1 c1, C.  BAZZOCCHI  a1 and C.  GENCHI  a1
a1 Istituto di Patologia Generale Veterinaria, Università di Milano, via Celoria 10, 20133 Milano, Italy

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Infection with the endosymbiotic bacteria Wolbachia is widespread in filarial nematodes. Previous studies have suggested concordance between the phylogeny of Wolbachia with that of their nematode hosts. However, there is only one published molecular phylogenetic study of filarial species, based on the 5S rRNA gene spacer. The phylogeny proposed by this study is partially incongruent with previous classifications of filarial nematodes, based on morphological characters. Furthermore, both traditional classifications and molecular phylogenies are, in part, inconsistent with the phylogeny of Wolbachia. Here we report mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene sequences for 11 species of filaria and for another spirurid nematode which was included as an outgroup. In addition, 16S rRNA, wsp and ftsZ gene sequences were generated for the Wolbachia of several filarial species, in order to complete the available data sets and further resolve the phylogeny of Wolbachia in nematodes. We used these data to evaluate whether nematode and Wolbachia phylogenies are concordant. Some of the possible phylogenetic reconstructions based on COI gene were congruent with the phylogeny of Wolbachia and supported the grouping of the rodent filaria Litomosoides sigmodontis with the lymphatic filariae (i.e. Brugia spp. and Wuchereria spp.) and the sister group relationship of Dirofilaria spp. and Onchocerca spp. However, the placement of the Wolbachia-free filaria Acanthocheilonema viteae is ambiguous and dependent on the phylogenetic methods used.

(Received May 13 2000)
(Revised July 24 2000)
(Accepted July 24 2000)

Key Words: filarial nematodes; phylogeny; Wolbachia; COI gene; 16S rDNA; ftsZ; wsp.

c1 Corresponding author: Tel: +39 02 26680443. Fax: +39 02 2364470. E-mail:
p1 Present address: Department of Genetics, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, P.O. Box 760549, San Antonio, Texas, USA.