ARLINGTON - A paper
published in the prestigious online journal Nature Communications that reveals the molecular biology
behind a certain worm’s ability to ignore the laws of genetics could lead to
control of some parasitic nematode species.
work was a collaboration between the laboratories of Andre Pires da
Silva, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at
Arlington, and Diane Shakes, associate professor of biology at William &
A hermaphrodite (self-fertilizing) nematode
outlines the unusual developmental processes that lead to skewing of the worms’
sex ratio. Rhabditis is a species of nematode or worm that produces only 5
percent of male offspring. About 35 percent of the species are hermaphrodites
The first law of
Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, states that sexually reproducing
organisms should produce equal numbers of males and females.
here we have a worm or nematode that produces male in very small numbers,”
Pires da Silva said. “If we could find out how that is accomplished and
translate that to the parasitic world, that could have a tremendous impact on
the quality of life people around the world experience. We might be able to
render those parasites ineffective.”
said Third World countries could control or eliminate some diseases that depend
upon these organisms to start. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.9
billion people are infected with nematodes.
“With our work,
we provide a hypothesis for future work to explain how these parasites are able
to make progeny of only one sex,” Shakes said in a William & Mary news
release. “By preventing them of becoming self-propagating pathogenic females,
there could be a way of controlling them.”
Pires da Silva
initially became interested in Rhabditis because he wanted to understand how
this species evolved three sexual forms (males, females and hermaphrodites),
while most animals exist as male/female species.
Communications is a new online offering from the publishers of Nature, the
preeminent journal in the life sciences. In addition to Shakes and Pires da
Silva, collaborators include Jyotiska Chaudhuri and Henry Huynh, both of UT
Arlington, as well as a former William & Mary undergraduate, Bryan Neva.
BBC.com also has published a story on the research.
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