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PLoS Pathog. 2019 Sep 10;15(9):e1007936. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007936. eCollection 2019 Sep.

The phage gene wmk is a candidate for male killing by a bacterial endosymbiont.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
2
Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
3
Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, United States of America.
4
Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United State of America.
5
Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
6
Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
7
Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.

Abstract

Wolbachia are the most widespread maternally-transmitted bacteria in the animal kingdom. Their global spread in arthropods and varied impacts on animal physiology, evolution, and vector control are in part due to parasitic drive systems that enhance the fitness of infected females, the transmitting sex of Wolbachia. Male killing is one common drive mechanism wherein the sons of infected females are selectively killed. Despite decades of research, the gene(s) underlying Wolbachia-induced male killing remain unknown. Here using comparative genomic, transgenic, and cytological approaches in fruit flies, we identify a candidate gene in the eukaryotic association module of Wolbachia prophage WO, termed WO-mediated killing (wmk), which transgenically causes male-specific lethality during early embryogenesis and cytological defects typical of the pathology of male killing. The discovery of wmk establishes new hypotheses for the potential role of phage genes in sex-specific lethality, including the control of arthropod pests and vectors.

PMID:
31504075
DOI:
10.1371/journal.ppat.1007936
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Conflict of interest statement

J.I.P. and Seth R.B. are listed as inventors on a patent related to potential applications of wmk in arthropods.

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