Skip navigation
C. Parasitic Bacteria Can Make Sterile Fruit Flies Fertile Again

Narrator: This is Science Today. A bacteria formerly considered a good-for-nothing parasite may turn out to help its fruit fly host. Researchers led by University of California, Berkeley biologist Thomas Cline were studying gene mutations that had made female fruit flies sterile. But just as they were about to start experiments to try to make the sterile flies fertile again, they discovered that the formerly sterile fruit flies had already regained their fertility.

Cline: What we found out was that the strain that was now making some progeny, that normally wouldn't; the difference between that and a strain that couldn't make any eggs at all was that one was infected by a bacterium.

Narrator: Even though the bacteria, called Wolbachia, was previously known to affect the sex genes of other insects, it had not been seen in the fruit fly. Since the fruit fly is one of the best-understood organisms, Cline says the consequences of the discovery are encouraging.

Cline: Now we can really bring to bear all the powerful tools that are available in the fruit fly to the study of Wolbachia and how it really lives and interacts in its host.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.