A host parasite interaction rescues Drosophila oogenesis defects

Nature. 2002 Jul 4;418(6893):76-9. doi: 10.1038/nature00843.


The cytoplasmically inherited bacterium Wolbachia pipientis is a widespread parasite of arthropods that manipulates the reproductive biology of its hosts, often to their detriment, in order to foster its own transmission through egg cytoplasm. Here we report that infection by Wolbachia restores fertility to Drosophila melanogaster mutant females prevented from making eggs by protein-coding lesions in Sex-lethal (Sxl), the master regulator of sex determination. Suppression of sterility by Wolbachia discriminates markedly among similar germline-specific Sxl alleles, and is not observed for mutations in other genes that produce similar 'tumorous ovary' phenotypes, including one that blocks Sxl germline expression. This allele and gene specificity indicates that suppression probably results from a specific interaction with Sxl protein, rather than from a bypass of the normal germline requirement for this developmental regulator or from an effect on Sxl expression. The Sxl-Wolbachia interaction provides a rare opportunity to explore host-parasite relationships at the molecular level in a model insect. Furthermore, demonstration that a parasite infection can counteract the deleterious effects of mutations in host genes illustrates how hosts might become dependent on parasites.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / parasitology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Lethal / genetics
  • Genetic Linkage / genetics
  • Germ-Line Mutation / genetics
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology
  • Male
  • Oogenesis / genetics
  • Oogenesis / physiology*
  • Ovary / abnormalities
  • Ovary / cytology
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Determination Processes
  • Wolbachia / physiology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Sxl protein, Drosophila