Wolbachia are endosymbionts of numerous arthropod and some nematode species, are important for their development and if present can cause distinct phenotypes of their hosts. Prophage DNA has been frequently detected in Wolbachia, but particles of Wolbachia bacteriophages (phage WO) have been only occasionally isolated. Here, we report the characterization and isolation of a phage WO of the southern ground cricket, Allonemobius socius, and provided the first whole-genome sequence of phage WO from this arthropod family outside of Asia. We screened A. socius abdomen DNA extracts from a cricket population in eastern Missouri by quantitative PCR for Wolbachia surface protein and phage WO capsid protein and found a prevalence of 55% and 50%, respectively, with many crickets positive for both. Immunohistochemistry using antibodies against Wolbachia surface protein showed many Wolbachia clusters in the reproductive system of female crickets. Whole-genome sequencing using Oxford Nanopore MinION and Illumina technology allowed for the assembly of a high-quality, 55 kb phage genome containing 63 open reading frames (ORF) encoding for phage WO structural proteins and host lysis and transcriptional manipulation. Taxonomically important regions of the assembled phage genome were validated by Sanger sequencing of PCR amplicons. Analysis of the nucleotides sequences of the ORFs encoding the large terminase subunit (ORF2) and minor capsid (ORF7) frequently used for phage WO phylogenetics showed highest homology to phage WOAu of Drosophila simulans (94.46% identity) and WOCin2USA1 of the cherry fruit fly, Rhagoletis cingulata (99.33% identity), respectively. Transmission electron microscopy examination of cricket ovaries showed a high density of phage particles within Wolbachia cells. Isolation of phage WO revealed particles characterized by 40-62 nm diameter heads and up to 190 nm long tails. This study provides the first detailed description and genomic characterization of phage WO from North America that is easily accessible in a widely distributed cricket species.
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