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PLoS Pathog. 2007 Dec;3(12):e190.

A cellular basis for Wolbachia recruitment to the host germline.

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Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, United States of America.


Wolbachia are among the most widespread intracellular bacteria, carried by thousands of metazoan species. The success of Wolbachia is due to efficient vertical transmission by the host maternal germline. Some Wolbachia strains concentrate at the posterior of host oocytes, which promotes Wolbachia incorporation into posterior germ cells during embryogenesis. The molecular basis for this localization strategy is unknown. Here we report that the wMel Wolbachia strain relies upon a two-step mechanism for its posterior localization in oogenesis. The microtubule motor protein kinesin-1 transports wMel toward the oocyte posterior, then pole plasm mediates wMel anchorage to the posterior cortex. Trans-infection tests demonstrate that factors intrinsic to Wolbachia are responsible for directing posterior Wolbachia localization in oogenesis. These findings indicate that Wolbachia can direct the cellular machinery of host oocytes to promote germline-based bacterial transmission. This study also suggests parallels between Wolbachia localization mechanisms and those used by other intracellular pathogens.

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