Wolbachia infection at least partially rescues the fertility and ovary defects of several new Drosophila melanogaster bag of marbles protein-coding mutants

M. Wenzel and C. F. Aquadro,  PLOS Genetics,  19:e1011009. 2023.

Author summary Reproduction in the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly is dependent on the bag of marbles (bam) gene, which acts early in the process of generating eggs and sperm. Mutations to this gene negatively impact the fertility of the fly, causing it to be sterile or have fewer progeny. Interestingly, we find that the bacteria Wolbachia, which resides within reproductive cells across a wide range of insects, partially restores the fertility and ovary phenotype of several bam mutants of which the resultant Bam protein is altered from wildtype. The protein function of Bam is further suggested to be important by the lack of rescue for a fly that has a fertility defect due to low expression of a non-mutated bam gene. Previous work makes similar conclusions about Wolbachia with another reproductive gene, Sex lethal (Sxl), highlighting the potential for rescue of fertility mutants to occur in a similar way across different genes. An understanding of the ways in which Wolbachia can affect host reproduction provides us with context with which to frame Wolbachia’s impact on host genes, such as bam and Sxl, and consider the evolutionary implications of Wolbachia’s infection in D. melanogaster fruit flies.

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