Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is often used to detect microorganisms, pathogens, or both, including the reproductive parasite Wolbachia pipientis (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae), in mosquitoes. Natural populations of Culex pipiens L. (Diptera: Culicidae) mosquitoes are infected with one or more strains of W. pipientis, and crosses between mosquitoes harboring different Wolbachia strains provide one of the best-known examples of cytoplasmic incompatibililty (CI). When we used PCR to monitor Wolbachia in the Buckeye strain of Culex pipiens, and in a Wolbachia-cured sister colony obtained by tetracycline treatment, we noted false negative PCR reactions with DNA samples from infected mosquitoes; these results were inconsistent with direct microscopic observation of Wolbachia-like particles in gonads dissected from mosquitoes in the same population. Assays with diluted template often improved detection of positive samples, suggesting that DNA prepared from whole mosquitoes contained an inhibitor of the PCR reaction. We reconciled discrepancies between PCR and microscopy by systematic measurement of the PCR reaction in the presence of an internal standard. Mosquito decapitation before DNA extraction restored the reliability of the PCR reaction, allowing accurate determination of Wolbachia infection status in infected and tetracycline-cured mosquito populations, consistent with microscopic examination. Using PCR primers based on the Tr1 gene, we confirmed that the Wolbachia infection in the Buckeye strain of Culex pipiens belongs to the genotype designated wPip1. Finally, to explore more widely the distribution of PCR inhibitors, we demonstrated that DNA isolated from the cricket, Acheta domesticus (L.); the beetle, Tenebrio molitor L.; the honey bee, Apis mellifera L.; and the mosquito, Anopheles punctipennis Say also contained PCR inhibitors. These results underscore the importance of measuring the presence of inhibitors in PCR templates by using a known positive standard, and provide an approach that will facilitate use of PCR to monitor environmental samples of mosquitoes that harbor endosymbionts or pathogenic organisms.
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Vol. 49 • No. 5