Parasitic inhibition of cell death facilitates symbiosis

Bart A. Pannebakker*, Benjamin Loppin, Coen P.H. Elemans, Lionel Humblot, Fabrice Vavre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


Symbiotic microorganisms have had a large impact on eukaryotic evolution, with effects ranging from parasitic to mutualistic. Mitochondria and chloroplasts are prime examples of symbiotic microorganisms that have become obligate for their hosts, allowing for a dramatic extension of suitable habitats for life. Out of the extraordinary diversity of bacterial endosymbionts in insects, most are facultative for their hosts, such as the ubiquitous Wolbachia, which manipulates host reproduction. Some endosymbionts, however, have become obligatory for host reproduction and/or survival. In the parasitoid wasp Asobara tabida the presence of Wolbachia is necessary for host oogenesis, but the mechanism involved is yet unknown. We show that Wolbachia influences programmed cell death processes (a host regulatory feature typically targeted by pathogens) in A. tabida, making its presence essential for the wasps' oocytes to mature. This suggests that parasite strategies, such as bacterial regulation of host apoptosis, can drive the evolution of host dependence, allowing for a swift transition from parasitism to mutualism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-215
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Asobara tabida
  • Wolbachia

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