Mechanistically comparing reproductive manipulations caused by selfish chromosomes and bacterial symbionts

E. Dalla Benetta, O. S. Akbari and P. M. Ferree,  Heredity,  126:707-716. 2021.

Insects naturally harbor a broad range of selfish agents that can manipulate their reproduction and development, often leading to host sex ratio distortion. Such effects directly benefit the spread of the selfish agents. These agents include two broad groups: bacterial symbionts and selfish chromosomes. Recent studies have made steady progress in uncovering the cellular targets of these agents and their effector genes. Here we highlight what is known about the targeted developmental processes, developmental timing, and effector genes expressed by several selfish agents. It is now becoming apparent that: (1) the genetic toolkits used by these agents to induce a given reproductive manipulation are simple, (2) these agents target sex-specific cellular processes very early in development, and (3) in some cases, similar processes are targeted. Knowledge of the molecular underpinnings of these systems will help to solve long-standing puzzles and provide new tools for controlling insect pests.

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