’Male-killer’ bacterium’s genome is deciphered

Wolbachia have a thing against males. A member of one of the most diverse groups of bacteria, called Proteobacteria, this parasitic “endosymbiont” lives inside the reproductive cells of a wide variety of the nearly one million species of arthropods, including insects, spiders, and crustaceans.

Wolbachia’s effects range from beneficial to pathological, but if the host is male, the infection often turns out badly. The reason is the Wolbachia are transmitted through females, and to increase the chances of being passed on from one generation to the next, the bacterium has developed a number of strategies to rid the population of males, or even to convert them to females. As far as Wolbachia are concerned, males are irrelevant.

The biochemical mechanisms that trigger different strategies in different hosts are unclear, however, in part because it has so far been impossible to grow sufficient quantities of these bacteria outside their host. But now that Scott O’Neill, Jonathan Eisen, and colleagues have sequenced the complete genome of one strain of Wolbachia pipientis, scientists are already gaining new insight into the biology and evolution of Wolbachia-host interactions.

The work is also likely to have practical applications – it has been proposed that Wolbachia could be used to control insect pests. It might also provide a new approach to the control of human and animal filariasis (diseases such as elephantiasis), since the worms that cause filariasis require the endosymbiotic Wolbachia for survival.

Citation: Wu M, Sun LV, Vamathevan J, Riegler M, Deboy R, et al. (2004) Phylogenomics of the Reproductive Parasite Wolbachia pipientis wMel: A Streamlined Genome Overrun by Mobile Genetic Elements. PLoS Biol: e69 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020069

All news from this category: Life Sciences and Chemistry

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences and chemistry area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Back to the Homepage

Comments (0)

Write comment

Latest posts

Newly published data provides clearer picture of volcano collapse

URI Professor Stéphan Grilli is keeping a close eye on volcanoes closer to the US. An article recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, written by University of Rhode…

World first concept for rechargeable cement-based batteries

Imagine an entire twenty storey concrete building which can store energy like a giant battery. Thanks to unique research from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, such a vision could someday…

In milliseconds from polluted to clear water

New discoveries in the field of nanoscience … Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces developed a membrane that is composed of a bundle of nanometer-sized tubes….

Partners & Sponsors