The toxic manipulator of oogenesis (TomO) protein has been identified in the wMel strain of Wolbachia that symbioses with the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster, as a protein that affects host reproduction. TomO protects germ stem cells (GSCs) from degeneration, which otherwise occurs in ovaries of host females that are mutant for the gene Sex-lethal (Sxl). We isolated the TomO homologs from wPip, a Wolbachia strain from the mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus. One of the homologs, TomOw Pip1, exerted the GSC rescue activity in fly Sxl mutants when lacking its hydrophobic stretches. The GSC-rescuing action of the TomOw Pip1 variant was ascribable to its abilities to associate with Nanos (nos) mRNA and to enhance Nos protein expression. The analysis of structure–activity relationships with TomO homologs and TomO deletion variants revealed distinct modules in the protein that are each dedicated to different functions, i.e., subcellular localization, nos mRNA binding or Nos expression enhancement. We propose that modular reshuffling is the basis for structural and functional diversification of TomO protein members.
ASJC Scopus subject areas