Although symbiotic interactions are ubiquitous in the living world, examples of developmental symbioses are still scarce. We show here the crucial role of Wolbachia in the oogenesis of filarial nematodes, a class of parasites of biomedical and veterinary relevance. We applied newly developed techniques to demonstrate the earliest requirements of Wolbachia in the parasite germline preceding the production of faulty embryos in Wolbachia-depleted nematodes. We show that Wolbachia stimulate germline proliferation in a cell-autonomous manner, and not through nucleotide supplementation as previously hypothesized. We also found Wolbachia to maintain the quiescence of a pool of germline stem cells to ensure a constant delivery of about 1,400 eggs per day for many years. The loss of quiescence upon Wolbachia depletion as well as the disorganization of the distal germline suggest that Wolbachia are required to execute the proper germline stem cell developmental program in order to produce viable eggs and embryos.
Keywords: Wolbachia; endosymbiont; filarial nematode; filariasis; germline; nematode; parasite; stem cells; symbiosis.
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