The unusual reproductive system of head and body lice (Pediculus humanus)

Created on 11.01.18

A new study has conclusively established for the first time that both head and body lice reproduce through paternal genome elimination (PGE), an unusual genetic system in which males transmit only their maternally derived chromosomes.

The study by de la Filia., et al., published in the December 2017 Journal of Medical and Veterinary Entomology investigated the inheritance patterns of parental genomes using a genotyping approach across families of both ecotypes and showed that heterozygous males exclusively or preferentially pass on one allele only, whereas females transmit both in a Mendelian fashion.

The observations suggest that in some occasions, there is transmission of paternal chromosomes through males, representing the first known case of PGE in which whole-genome meiotic drive is incomplete.

The study discusses the potential implications of this finding for the evolution of resistance and invites the development of new theoretical models of how this knowledge might contribute to increasing the success of pediculicide-based management schemes

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