The role of mab-3 in spermatogenesis and ontogenesis of pinewood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus.
Background: Bursaphelenchus xylophilus is one of the most destructive invasive species, causing extensive economic losses worldwide. The sex ratio of female to male of B. xylophilus plays an important role in the nematode infestation. However, little is known about the processes of its sex determination. The double sex/mab-3-related family of transcription factors are highly conserved in animals, playing crucial roles in sex determination, spermatogenesis and ontogenesis. We therefore investigated its orthologue, Bxy-mab-3, in B. xylophilus. Results: Bxy-mab-3 has two typical conserved DNA-binding domains. It was observed in J2 (the second-stage of juveniles), J3, J4 and male adults (specifically on the spicules), but not in eggs or female adults via mRNA in situ hybridization. RNA-Seq indicated significantly higher expression in males. RNAi showed that the body size and sperm size of male adults were markedly smaller than those of the controls. Meanwhile, almost all the RNAi-treated males failed to mate with the normal females, even 26.34% of interfered males did not produce sperm. However, RNAi of Bxy-mab-3 had no effect on the sex ratio of B. xylophilus. Conclusion: Bxy-mab-3 is indispensable for spermatogenesis, ontogenesis and mating behavior. It is a typical sex-determination gene with differential expression in males and females. However, knocking down Bxy-mab-3 expression could not alter the sex ratio as seen in other species. Our findings contribute towards a better understanding of the molecular events of Bxy-mab-3 in B. xylophilus, which provides promising hints for control of pine wilt disease by blocking ontogenesis and decreasing nematode fecundity.