Wolbachia Induces Structural Defects Harmful to Drosophila simulans Riverside Spermiogenesis.

M. G. Riparbelli, A. Pratelli and G. Callaini,  Cells,  12. 2023.

The relationship between cytoplasmic incompatibility and the obligate intracellular alphaproteobacteria Wolbachia has for a long time been reported. Although the molecular mechanisms responsible for this reproductive alteration are beginning to be understood, the effects of Wolbachia on germ cell structure and dynamics have not yet been fully investigated. We report here that the presence of Wolbachia in infected cysts of elongating spermatids is associated with major structural defects that become more evident in mature sperm. We find mitochondrial defects, an improper axoneme structure, reduced sperm numbers, and individualization failures. The large heterogeneous variety of the ultrastructural defects found in elongating spermatids and mature sperm provide the first cytological evidence for the reduced fertility associated with Wolbachia infection in Drosophila simulans males. The observed abnormalities could be the result of the mechanical stress induced by the high bacteria numbers during the process of spermatid elongation, rather than the result of the released factors affecting the proper morphogenesis of the germ cells. Moreover, high Wolbachia densities in male germ cells may not be appropriate for causing cytoplasmic incompatibility as the bacteria are harmful for spermatid differentiation, leading to abnormal sperm that is unlikely to be functional.

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