Developmental strategy of the endoparasite Xenos vesparum (Strepsiptera, Insecta): Host invasion and elusion of its defense reactions

Fabio Manfredini, Fabiola Giusti, Laura Beani, Romano Dallai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


To successfully complete its endoparasitic development, the strepsipteran Xenos vesparum needs to elude the defense mechanisms of its host, the wasp Polistes dominulus. SEM and TEM observations after artificial infections allow us to outline the steps of this intimate host-parasite association. Triungulins, the mobile 1st instar larvae of this parasite, are able to "softly" overcome structural barriers of the larval wasp (cuticle and epidermis) without any traumatic reaction at the entry site, to reach the hemocoel where they settle. The parasite molts 48 h later to a 2nd instar larva, which moves away from the 1st instar exuvium, molts twice more without ecdysis (a feature unique to Strepsiptera) and pupates, if male, or develops into a neotenic female. Host encapsulation involves, the abandoned 1st larval exuvium, but not the living parasite. In contrast to the usual process of encapsulation, it occurs only 48 h after host invasion or later, and without any melanization. In further experiments, first, we verified Xenos vesparum's ability to reinfect an already parasitized wasp larva. Second, 2nd instar larvae implanted in a new host did not evoke any response by hemocytes. Third, we tested the efficiency of host defense mechanisms by implanting nylon filaments in control larval wasps, excluding any effect due the dynamic behavior of a living parasite; within a few minutes, we observed the beginning of a typical melanotic encapsulation plus an initial melanization in the wound site. We conclude that the immune response of the wasp is manipulated by the parasite, which is able to delay and redirect encapsulation towards a pseudo-target, the exuvia of triungulins, and to elude hemocyte attack through an active suppression of the immune defense and/or a passive avoidance of encapsulation by peculiar surface chemical properties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-601
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of morphology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • endoparasitic development
  • host defense
  • elusion
  • encapsulation
  • melanization


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