The discovery of an extraordinarily high level of mobile elements in the genome of Wolbachia, a widespread arthropod and nematode endosymbiont, suggests that this bacterium could be an excellent model for assessing the evolution and function of mobile DNA in specialized bacteria. In this paper, we discuss how studies on the temperate bacteriophage WO of Wolbachia have revealed unexpected levels of genomic flux and are challenging previously held views about the clonality of obligate intracellular bacteria. We also discuss the roles this phage might play in the Wolbachia-arthropod symbiosis and infer how this research can be translated to combating human diseases vectored by arthropods. We expect that this temperate phage will be a preeminent model system to understand phage genetics, evolution and ecology in obligate intracellular bacteria. In this sense, phage WO might be likened to phage lambda of the endosymbiont world.
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