Researchers find a gene that lets bacteria kill all male flies

Enlarge (credit: Katja Schulz)

A number of bacteria that infect insects have a simple and brutal way of increasing their transmission: they kill off all the male progeny of the females that they infect. There’s actually some evolutionary logic to this. The bacteria can get transmitted to the eggs of the females they infect but can’t get carried along on the sperm. That makes the male offspring a problem: they can’t spread the bacteria further, and they’ll compete with the females for food. Better to kill them off, then, just to ensure that never becomes a problem.

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But it’s one thing to have something that’s a good idea conceptually and another entirely to evolve an implementation that gets the job done. How, exactly, do you go about killing one sex while leaving the other untouched?

Thanks to a lucky accident, two Swiss researchers (Toshiyuki Harumoto and Bruno Lemaitre) have identified the gene that allows one species of bacteria to kill off males. Although we don’t have all the details, it’s clear that the system leverages something that male flies need to do to cope with the fact that they only have a single copy of the X chromosome.

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Post Author: martin

Martin is an enthusiastic programmer, a webdeveloper and a young entrepreneur. He is intereted into computers for a long time. In the age of 10 he has programmed his first website and since then he has been working on web technologies until now. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of and Online Magazines. His colleagues appreciate him as a passionate workhorse, a fan of new technologies, an eternal optimist and a dreamer, but especially the soul of the team for whom he can do anything in the world.

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