Many bacterial species are in precise relationships with hosts with whom they interact, termed "symbiosis". Symbiosis is a major force of evolutionary change, influencing virtually all aspects of biology, ranging from population ecology and evolution to genomics and molecular/biochemical mechanisms of development and reproduction. Understanding the nature and mechanisms of these associations is thus of interest from many perspectives. The most common symbiotic bacteria in the world are called Wolbachia, present in up to 70% of insects and other arthropods such as spiders, mites and crustaceans and also in roundworms causing human diseases of river blindness and elephantiasis and heartworm in domesticated animals. For all these scientific endeavors, we need to more fully understand how Wolbachia are able to influence their hosts' biology, their interactions with their ecology and environment and their biology in natural populations. It is here that the 10th biennial international Wolbachia (Wolbachia2018) meeting enables interactions from multiple scientific perspectives and approaches. Over 100 of the world's experts on Wolbachia (and related symbionts) from academia and industry gather to present and discuss their recent findings. The small, informal nature of the meetings enables involvement of graduate students, postdocs, scientists in the beginning of their careers, and participation of under-represented groups in science, providing opportunities for them to present their work. The multidisciplinary nature of research interests of participants fosters interactions from diverse fields of biology bringing together participants who likely would not be able to meet as a group at other conferences due to their individual disciplines.

The obligate intracellular alpha-proteobacteria symbiont Wolbachia, widespread in arthropods, is best known for reproductive manipulation to enhance transmission through the female germline, leading to cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis, feminization or male-killing. Wolbachia alter core host cellular and developmental processes and also have a dramatic impact on the composition of insect gut microbiome. They can protect their arthropod hosts against insect viruses and can benefit their hosts under times of nutritional stress and they can influence human pathogenic levels in mosquito vectors of malaria, Zika, Dengue, West Nile, and yellow fever viruses. It is possible to drive and maintain anti-pathogen strains of Wolbachia in mosquitoes in natural populations, enabling a reduction of the frequency and titer of these viral pathogens. Wolbachia are also present in most human filarial nematodes which cause parasitic diseases of elephantiasis and river blindness. Here they are obligate for worm development and reproduction, triggering worldwide projects screening for anti-Wolbachia drugs. The 10th biennial Wolbachia conference is focused around topics including: reproductive manipulation (cytoplasmic incompatibility and other mechanisms); cell biology; genomics, biochemistry and molecular biology; Wolbachia as tools and targets of disease/pest control in insects and filariae; facultative symbiont diversity, ecology and evolution; sex-ratio distortion systems and other symbiont species in arthropods. The meeting will promote the latest research findings about mechanisms driving these core host cellular and development processes and provide insight into the evolutionary origins of the intracellular lifestyle of endosymbionts and many pathogens. Presentations by graduate students, postdocs and beginning scientists and under-represented groups is encouraged.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Mamta Rawat
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New England Biolabs
United States
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