Nav: Home

Common bacterium may help control disease-bearing mosquitoes

February 27, 2017

Genes from a common bacterium can be harnessed to sterilize male insects, a tool that can potentially control populations of both disease-bearing mosquitoes and agricultural pests, researchers at Yale University and Vanderbilt University report in related studies published Feb. 27 in two Nature journals.

The studies highlight the peculiar reproductive role of Wolbachia bacteria, which are found in the testes and ovaries of most insect species. Eggs fail to develop when fertilized by infected males, a process called cytoplasmic incompatibility. However, when females are also infected with Wolbachia, healthy embryos can develop.

In research published in the journals Nature and Nature Microbiology, Yale and Vanderbilt researchers report finding two genes encoded by Wolbachia that when introduced into fruit flies can completely sterilize male insects. The sterility is triggered by a specific enzyme mechanism operating in the sperm and embryo, Yale researchers report in the journal Nature Microbiology. The discovery may allow public health officials to control the size of insect populations by introducing sterile males into the wild.

"Females inseminated by these males only lay dead eggs," said Yale's John Beckmann, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, lead author of the paper in Nature Microbiology, and contributing author of a related paper published in the journal Nature. "If the sterilized males are released into problem areas we can eliminate insect populations."

Wolbachia, however, is not found in some insects -- most notably Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are the primary transmitters of diseases such as Zika and dengue fever. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of Wolbachia's effect on reproduction may help researchers produce sterile male Aedes by direct insertion of the genes. When released into the wild, these males could help control mosquito populations, said Mark Hochstrasser, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and senior author of the Nature Microbiology paper.
-end-
Yale's Judith Ronau is co-lead author of the Nature Microbiology paper. Vanderbilt's Seth Bordenstein is senior author of the Nature research.

The work was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.

Yale University

Related Genes Articles:

How status sticks to genes
Life at the bottom of the social ladder may have long-term health effects that even upward mobility can't undo, according to new research in monkeys.
Symphony of genes
One of the most exciting discoveries in genome research was that the last common ancestor of all multicellular animals already possessed an extremely complex genome.
New genes out of nothing
One key question in evolutionary biology is how novel genes arise and develop.
Good genes
A team of scientists from NAU, Arizona State University, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts and nine other institutions worldwide to study potential cancer suppression mechanisms in cetaceans, the mammalian group that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.
How lifestyle affects our genes
In the past decade, knowledge of how lifestyle affects our genes, a research field called epigenetics, has grown exponentially.
Genes that regulate how much we dream
Sleep is known to allow animals to re-energize themselves and consolidate memories.
The genes are not to blame
Individualized dietary recommendations based on genetic information are currently a popular trend.
Timing is everything, to our genes
Salk scientists discover critical gene activity follows a biological clock, affecting diseases of the brain and body.
New genes on 'deteriorating' Y chromosome
Decoding Y chromosomes is difficult even with latest sequencing technologies.
Newly revealed autism-related genes include genes involved in cancer
Researchers in Italy have applied a computational technique that accounts for how genes interact, to find new networks of related genes that may be involved in autism spectrum disorder.
More Genes News and Genes Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab