Identification of Parthenogenesis-Inducing Effector Proteins in Wolbachia

Laura C. Fricke, Amelia R.I. Lindsey

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1 Scopus citations


Bacteria in the genus Wolbachia have evolved numerous strategies to manipulate arthropod sex, including the conversion of would-be male offspring to asexually reproducing females. This so-called “parthenogenesis induction” phenotype can be found in a number of Wolbachia strains that infect arthropods with haplodiploid sex determination systems, including parasitoid wasps. Despite the discovery of microbe-mediated parthenogenesis more than 30 yr ago, the underlying genetic mechanisms have remained elusive. We used a suite of genomic, computational, and molecular tools to identify and characterize two proteins that are uniquely found in parthenogenesis-inducing Wolbachia and have strong signatures of host-associated bacterial effector proteins. These putative parthenogenesis-inducing proteins have structural homology to eukaryotic protein domains including nucleoporins, the key insect sex determining factor Transformer, and a eukaryotic-like serine–threonine kinase with leucine-rich repeats. Furthermore, these proteins significantly impact eukaryotic cell biology in the model Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We suggest that these proteins are parthenogenesis-inducing factors and our results indicate that this would be made possible by a novel mechanism of bacterial-host interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberevae036
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution 2024. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Wolbachia
  • mitosis
  • parasitoid
  • parthenogenesis
  • sex
  • symbiosis


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