Microbial manipulation of host sex determination

Endosymbiotic bacteria can directly manipulate their host's sex determination towards the production of female offspring

Authors

  • Leo W. Beukeboom

    Corresponding author
    1. Evolutionary Genetics, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    • Evolutionary Genetics, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
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Abstract

A recent study in the lepidopteran Ostrinia scapulalis shows that endosymbionts can actively manipulate the sex determination mechanism of their host. Wolbachia bacteria alter the sex-specific splicing of the doublesex master switch gene. In ZZ males of this female heterogametic system, the female isoform of doublesex is produced in the presence of the bacteria. The effect is a lethal feminization of genotypic males. Curing of ZW females leads to males that die, indicating that the bacteria have an obligate role in proper sex determination and development of their host. Microbial intervention with host sex determination may be a driving force behind the evolutionary turnover of sex determination mechanisms.

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