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Wolbachia are intracellular maternally inherited bacteria that can spread through insect populations and block virus transmission by mosquitoes, providing an important approach to dengue control. To better understand the mechanisms of virus inhibition, we here perform proteomic quantification of the effects of Wolbachia in Aedes aegypti mosquito cells and midgut. Perturbations are observed in vesicular trafficking, lipid metabolism and in the endoplasmic reticulum that could impact viral entry and replication. Wolbachia-infected cells display a differential cholesterol profile, including elevated levels of esterified cholesterol, that is consistent with perturbed intracellular cholesterol trafficking. Cyclodextrins have been shown to reverse lipid accumulation defects in cells with disrupted cholesterol homeostasis. Treatment of Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti cells with 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin restores dengue replication in Wolbachia-carrying cells, suggesting dengue is inhibited in Wolbachia-infected cells by localised cholesterol accumulation. These results demonstrate parallels between the cellular Wolbachia viral inhibition phenotype and lipid storage genetic disorders. Wolbachia infection of mosquitoes can block dengue virus infection and is tested in field trials, but the mechanism of action is unclear. Using proteomics, Geoghegan et al. here identify effects of Wolbachia on cholesterol homeostasis and dengue virus replication in Aedes aegypti.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun




Aedes, Animals, Cholesterol, Cytoplasmic Vesicles, Dengue, Dengue Virus, Humans, Wolbachia