Turelli, Michael; Barton, Nick HISTA
Maternally inherited Wolbachia transinfections are being introduced into natural mosquito populations to reduce the transmission of dengue, Zika, and other arboviruses. Wolbachia-induced cytoplasmic incompatibility provides a frequency-dependent reproductive advantage to infected females that can spread transinfections within and among populations. However, because transinfections generally reduce host fitness, they tend to spread within populations only after their frequency exceeds a critical threshold. This produces bistability with stable equilibrium frequencies at both 0 and 1, analogous to the bistability produced by underdominance between alleles or karyotypes and by population dynamics under Allee effects. Here, we analyze how stochastic frequency variation produced by finite population size can facilitate the local spread of variants with bistable dynamics into areas where invasion is unexpected from deterministic models. Our exemplar is the establishment of wMel Wolbachia in the Aedes aegypti population of Pyramid Estates (PE), a small community in far north Queensland, Australia. In 2011, wMel was stably introduced into Gordonvale, separated from PE by barriers to A. aegypti dispersal. After nearly 6 years during which wMel was observed only at low frequencies in PE, corresponding to an apparent equilibrium between immigration and selection, wMel rose to fixation by 2018. Using analytic approximations and statistical analyses, we demonstrate that the observed fixation of wMel at PE is consistent with both stochastic transition past an unstable threshold frequency and deterministic transformation produced by steady immigration at a rate just above the threshold required for deterministic invasion. The indeterminacy results from a delicate balance of parameters needed to produce the delayed transition observed. Our analyses suggest that once Wolbachia transinfections are established locally through systematic introductions, stochastic “threshold crossing” is likely to only minimally enhance spatial spread, providing a local ratchet that slightly—but systematically—aids area-wide transformation of disease-vector populations in heterogeneous landscapes.
We thank S. O'Neill, C. Simmons, and the World Mosquito Project for providing access to unpublished data. S. Ritchie provided valuable insights into Aedes aegypti biology and the literature describing A. aegypti populations near Cairns. We thank B. Cooper for help with the figures and D. Shropshire, S. O'Neill, S. Ritchie, A. Hoffmann, B. Cooper, and members of the Cooper lab for comments on an earlier draft. Comments from three reviewers greatly improved our presentation.
Turelli M, Barton NH. Why did the Wolbachia transinfection cross the road? Drift, deterministic dynamics, and disease control. Evolution Letters. 2022;6(1):92-105. doi:10.1002/evl3.270
Turelli, M., & Barton, N. H. (2022). Why did the Wolbachia transinfection cross the road? Drift, deterministic dynamics, and disease control. Evolution Letters. Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.270
Turelli, Michael, and Nicholas H Barton. “Why Did the Wolbachia Transinfection Cross the Road? Drift, Deterministic Dynamics, and Disease Control.” Evolution Letters. Wiley, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.270.
M. Turelli and N. H. Barton, “Why did the Wolbachia transinfection cross the road? Drift, deterministic dynamics, and disease control,” Evolution Letters, vol. 6, no. 1. Wiley, pp. 92–105, 2022.
Turelli M, Barton NH. 2022. Why did the Wolbachia transinfection cross the road? Drift, deterministic dynamics, and disease control. Evolution Letters. 6(1), 92–105.
Turelli, Michael, and Nicholas H. Barton. “Why Did the Wolbachia Transinfection Cross the Road? Drift, Deterministic Dynamics, and Disease Control.” Evolution Letters, vol. 6, no. 1, Wiley, 2022, pp. 92–105, doi:10.1002/evl3.270.
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