Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Friendly Fire
02 May 2012

Friendly Fire

Bacteria can benefit our bodies by aiding digestion, producing vitamins and even fighting infections. In the insect world there are surprising examples of such symbiotic relationships, such as the female Drosophila mauritiana, a type of fruit fly, which lays nearly four times as many eggs when infected with Wolbachia bacteria. It’s a trick that is only now understood by scientists. Pictured are Wolbachia bacteria (stained green) infecting cells at the tips of the germarium [fly reproductive organ]. This invasion has the effect of increasing the number of adjoining stem cells, which mature into eggs (red), by making them divide more frequently and preventing cell death. In some other insect species, Wolbachia hinder reproduction and shorten lifespan of offspring. Insights into how these microbes manipulate reproduction could help scientists combat insect-borne diseases in the future.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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