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Sex Dev. 2014;8(1-3):59-73. doi: 10.1159/000357024. Epub 2013 Dec 20.

Manipulation of arthropod sex determination by endosymbionts: diversity and molecular mechanisms.

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Evolutionary Genetics, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Arthropods exhibit a large variety of sex determination systems both at the chromosomal and molecular level. Male heterogamety, female heterogamety, and haplodiploidy occur frequently, but partially different genes are involved. Endosymbionts, such as Wolbachia, Cardinium,Rickettsia, and Spiroplasma, can manipulate host reproduction and sex determination. Four major reproductive manipulation types are distinguished: cytoplasmic incompatibility, thelytokous parthenogenesis, male killing, and feminization. In this review, the effects of these manipulation types and how they interfere with arthropod sex determination in terms of host developmental timing, alteration of sex determination, and modification of sexual differentiation pathways are summarized. Transitions between different manipulation types occur frequently which suggests that they are based on similar molecular processes. It is also discussed how mechanisms of reproductive manipulation and host sex determination can be informative on each other, with a special focus on haplodiploidy. Future directions on how the study of endosymbiotic manipulation of host reproduction can be key to further studies of arthropod sex determination are shown.

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