Bacteria changes host’s sex

25 Oct

I have heard of a lot of strange bacteria, but I have to say that Wolbachia is the weirdest. Estimates show that wolbachia is present in 65% of known species of insects. It lives inside the cells of its hosts, not just the guts, skin and orifices. This thing has a huge variety of mechanisms for ensuring its proliferation. Wolbachia can change its hosts’ sex, kill its offspring or make it fertile depending on which suits the bacteria’s needs. This may seem like a lot of leeway to give a bacteria that lives symbiotically with a host, but wolbachia provides enough benefits to make it worth it. Wolbachia actually encases dividing cells and helps ensure that the new cell has the right number of chromosomes (picture above shows wolbachia proteins in green, chromosomes in blue).

Wolbachia has learned how to hitch rides on proteins within the host to get where it needs to go, and generally gives the impression of a kid in a candy store going crazy. Genetically, it is a relatively simple bacteria, with a lot of raw material for adaptation and rapid evolving. We are only beginning to understand what this thing is capable of. Crazy stuff! Check out more here.