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Title: Nuclease proteins CifA and CifB promote spermatid DNA damage associated with symbiont-induced cytoplasmic incompatibility
The worldwide endosymbiosis between arthropods and Wolbachia bacteria is an archetype for reproductive parasitism. This parasitic strategy rapidly increases the proportion of symbiont-transmitting mothers, and the most common form, cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), impacts insect evolution and arboviral control strategies. During CI, sperms from symbiotic males kill embryos of aposymbiotic females via two nuclear-targeting proteins, CifA and CifB, that alter sperm chromatin organization in Drosophila melanogaster. Here we hypothesize that Cif proteins metabolize nucleic acids of developing sperm to initiate genome integrity changes. Using in vitro and in situ transgenic, mutant, enzymatic, and cytochemical assays, we show that CifA is a previously-unrecognized DNase and RNase, and CifB is a DNase. Notably, in vitro nuclease activity translates to in situ spermatid DNA damage at the canoe stage of spermiogenesis. Evolution-guided mutations ablate Cif enzymatic activity. Nucleic acid metabolism by Cif enzymes expands a fundamental understanding of the mechanism of symbiont-mediated reproductive parasitism.  more » « less
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