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It’s common knowledge that all organisms inherit their mitochondria — the cell’s “power plants” — from their mothers. But what happens to all the father’s mitochondria? Surprisingly, how — and why — paternal mitochondria are prevented from getting passed on to their offspring after fertilization is still shrouded in mystery; the only thing that’s certain is that there must be a compelling reason, seeing as this phenomenon has been conserved throughout evolution.
Dr. Eli Arama and a team in the Weizmann Institute’s Molecular Genetics Department found that as soon as the sperm enters the egg, special cellular vesicles — already present in the fruit fly egg — immediately attract to the sperm like a magnet. They then proceed to disintegrate the sperm’s outer membrane and separate the mitochondria from the tail section, which is subsequently cut into smaller pieces that are then “devoured” by conventional selective autophagy.
Yoav Politi, Liron Gal, Yossi Kalifa, Liat Ravid, Zvulun Elazar, Eli Arama. Paternal Mitochondrial Destruction after Fertilization Is Mediated by a Common Endocytic and Autophagic Pathway in Drosophila. Developmental Cell, 2014; 29 (3): 305 DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.04.005