Genetics

How hosts can defeat selfish elements

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Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, pp. 871-872
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6391.871-d

A gene controlling Wolbachia proliferation in Nasonia wasps is under positive selection.

PHOTO: SIMON VAN NOORT/IZIKO MUSEUMS OF SOUTH AFRICA

Wolbachia bacterial infections are horizontally passed through the eggs of nematodes and insects and can selfishly affect reproductive outcomes, resulting in an increased number of female offspring. Because Wolbachia can affect reproduction, it has been eyed as a potential gene drive system to eliminate disease-carrying vectors, such as mosquitoes. Crossing species of Nasonia wasps that maintain differing levels of Wolbachia, Funkhouser-Jones et al. mapped a gene named Wolbachia density suppressor that controls Wolbachia proliferation within hosts. Further investigation suggested that this gene is under positive selection. This adds to our understanding of the dynamics between hosts and selfish parasites such as Wolbachia and may provide information of interest for the design of gene drive systems.

Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2018.04.010 (2018).

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