Wolbachia-mediated male killing is associated with defective chromatin remodeling

Maria Giovanna Riparbelli, Rosanna Giordano, Morio Ueyama, Giuliano Callaini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Male killing, induced by different bacterial taxa of maternally inherited microorganisms, resulting in highly distorted female-biased sex-ratios, is a common phenomenon among arthropods. Some strains of the endosymbiont bacteria Wolbachia have been shown to induce this phenotype in particular insect hosts. High altitude populations of Drosophila bifasciata infected with Wolbachia show selective male killing during embryonic development. However, since this was first reported, circa 60 years ago, the interaction between Wolbachia and its host has remained unclear. Herein we show that D. bifasciata male embryos display defective chromatin remodeling, improper chromatid segregation and chromosome bridging, as well as abnormal mitotic spindles and gradual loss of their centrosomes. These defects occur at different times in the early development of male embryos leading to death during early nuclear division cycles or large defective areas of the cellular blastoderm, culminating in abnormal embryos that die before eclosion. We propose that Wolbachia affects the development of male embryos by specifically targeting male chromatin remodeling and thus disturbing mitotic spindle assembly and chromosome behavior. These are the first observations that demonstrate fundamental aspects of the cytological mechanism of male killing and represent a solid base for further molecular studies of this phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere30045
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 23 2012


  • INHS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Wolbachia-mediated male killing is associated with defective chromatin remodeling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this