11 September 2023

A genetic basis for facultative parthenogenesis in Drosophila

Alexis L. Sperling, Daniel K. Fabian, Erik K. Garrison, and David M. Glover. - Current Biology, 2023


Facultative parthenogenesis enables sexually reproducing organisms to switch between sexual and asexual parthenogenetic reproduction. To gain insights into this phenomenon, we sequenced the genomes of sexually reproducing and parthenogenetic strains of Drosophila mercatorum and identified differences in the gene expression in their eggs. We then tested whether manipulating the expression of candidate gene homologs identified in Drosophila mercatorum could lead to facultative parthenogenesis in the non-parthenogenetic species Drosophila melanogaster. This identified a polygenic system whereby increased expression of the mitotic protein kinase polo and decreased expression of a desaturase, Desat2, caused facultative parthenogenesis in the non-parthenogenetic species that was enhanced by increased expression of Myc. The genetically induced parthenogenetic Drosophila melanogaster eggs exhibit de novo centrosome formation, fusion of the meiotic products, and the onset of development to generate predominantly triploid offspring. Thus, we demonstrate a genetic basis for sporadic facultative parthenogenesis in an animal.

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