BackgroundThe oosome is the germline determinant in the wasp Nasonia vitripennis and is homologous to the polar granules of Drosophila. Despite a common evolutionary origin and developmental role, the oosome is morphologically quite distinct from polar granules. It is a solid sphere that migrates within the cytoplasm before budding out and forming pole cells.ResultsTo gain an understanding of both the molecular basis of oosome development and the conserved essential features of germ plasm, we quantified and compared transcript levels between embryo fragments that contained the oosome and those that did not. The identity of the differentially localized transcripts indicated that Nasonia uses a distinct set of molecules to carry out conserved germ plasm functions. In addition, functional testing of a sample of localized transcripts revealed potentially novel mechanisms of ribonucleoprotein assembly and pole cell cellularization in the wasp.ConclusionsOur results demonstrate that the composition of germ plasm varies significantly within Holometabola, as very few mRNAs share localization to the oosome and polar granules. Some of this variability appears to be related to the unique properties of the oosome relative to the polar granules in Drosophila, and some may be related to differences in pole formation between species. This work will serve as the basis for further investigation into the patterns of germline determinant evolution among insects, the molecular basis of the unique properties of the oosome, and the incorporation of novel components into developmental networks.