Cytological investigation of the mechanism of parthenogenesis in Drosophila mercatorum

Fly (Austin). Nov-Dec 2007;1(6):317-29. doi: 10.4161/fly.5408. Epub 2007 Nov 12.


Thelytokous parthenogenesis (female progeny only) in animals is believed to arise initially in unfertilized eggs produced by bisexual females via the fusion of two haploid nuclei following meiosis, to produce diploid female progeny. The transition from sexual to parthenogenetic mechanisms of reproduction requires that the egg replace the paternal contributions of a haploid genetic complement and the basal body, which is thought to be essential for centrosome formation. The transitional facultative parthenogenetic stage is usually associated with a high rate of failed or abortive development, but the molecular and mechanistic reasons for this failure remain unclear. We show that a facultative parthenogenetic strain of Drosophila mercatorum produces a high percentage of unfertilized eggs competent to restore diploidy and form centrosomes de novo following meiosis. The female meiotic products replicate and divide by an acentrosomal mechanism in most oocytes and cytoplasmic centrosomes form in 35% of the oocytes. However, after pronuclear replication the cytoplasmic centrosomes must "capture" two haploid nuclei in order to restore diploidy. In practice, this process frequently fails due to centrosome-mediated capture events of single or more than two haploid nuclei, as well as multiple nuclear capture events in a single embryo when excess free centrosomes are not inactivated following formation of the first zygotic nucleus. Additionally, as development proceeds, many of the centrosomes that initiate syncytial development do not remain functional, possibly due to centrosome maturation defects, and later stages of syncytial development fail. The combined effect of the high error rate associated with nuclear capture and the failure of centrosome maturation during later developmental prevents successful parthenogenesis in most of the eggs that initiate development. This shows that the high rate of failed development associated with the transition from sexual to parthenogenetic reproduction is limited by the low probability of the formation of a diploid zygotic nucleus with the correct complement of centrosomes in D. mercatorum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Centrosome / ultrastructure
  • Diploidy
  • Drosophila / cytology*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Haploidy
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Parthenogenesis / genetics
  • Parthenogenesis / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Species Specificity