A male-killing gene encoded by a symbiotic virus of Drosophila

D. Kageyama, T. Harumoto, K. Nagamine, A. Fujiwara, T. N. Sugimoto, A. Jouraku, M. Tamura, T. K. Katoh and M. Watada,  Nature Communications,  14:1357. 2023.




In most eukaryotes, biparentally inherited nuclear genomes and maternally inherited cytoplasmic genomes have different evolutionary interests. Strongly female-biased sex ratios that are repeatedly observed in various arthropods often result from the male-specific lethality (male-killing) induced by maternally inherited symbiotic bacteria such as Spiroplasma and Wolbachia. However, despite some plausible case reports wherein viruses are raised as male-killers, it is not well understood how viruses, having much smaller genomes than bacteria, are capable of inducing male-killing. Here we show that a maternally inherited double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) virus belonging to the family Partitiviridae (designated DbMKPV1) induces male-killing in Drosophila. DbMKPV1 localizes in the cytoplasm and possesses only four genes, i.e., one gene in each of the four genomic segments (dsRNA1−dsRNA4), in contrast to ca. 1000 or more genes possessed by Spiroplasma or Wolbachia. We also show that a protein (designated PVMKp1; 330 amino acids in size), encoded by a gene on the dsRNA4 segment, is necessary and sufficient for inducing male-killing. Our results imply that male-killing genes can be easily acquired by symbiotic viruses through reassortment and that symbiotic viruses are hidden players in arthropod evolution. We anticipate that host-manipulating genes possessed by symbiotic viruses can be utilized for controlling arthropods.

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