Maternal Control of Haplodiploid Sex Determination in the Wasp Nasonia

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Science  30 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5978, pp. 620-623
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185805

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All insects in the order Hymenoptera have haplodiploid sex determination, in which males emerge from haploid unfertilized eggs and females are diploid. Sex determination in the honeybee Apis mellifera is controlled by the complementary sex determination (csd) locus, but the mechanisms controlling sex determination in other Hymenoptera without csd are unknown. We identified the sex-determination system of the parasitic wasp Nasonia, which has no csd locus. Instead, maternal input of Nasonia vitripennis transformer (Nvtra) messenger RNA, in combination with specific zygotic Nvtra transcription, in which Nvtra autoregulates female-specific splicing, is essential for female development. Our data indicate that males develop as a result of maternal imprinting that prevents zygotic transcription of the maternally derived Nvtra allele in unfertilized eggs. Upon fertilization, zygotic Nvtra transcription is initiated, which autoregulates the female-specific transcript, leading to female development.

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