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Genetics. 2000 Jul;155(3):1469-79.

Maternal-zygotic gene conflict over sex determination: effects of inbreeding.

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  • 1Biology Department, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


There is growing evidence that sex determination in a wide range of organisms is determined by interactions between maternal-effect genes and zygotically expressing genes. Maternal-effect genes typically produce products (e.g., mRNA or proteins) that are placed into the egg during oogenesis and therefore depend upon maternal genotype. Here it is shown that maternal-effect and zygotic genes are subject to conflicting selective pressures over sex determination in species with partial inbreeding or subdivided populations. The optimal sex ratios for maternal-effect genes and zygotically expressing genes are derived for two models: partial inbreeding (sibmating) and subdivided populations with local mating in temporary demes (local mate competition). In both cases, maternal-effect genes are selected to bias sex determination more toward females than are zygotically expressed genes. By investigating the invasion criteria for zygotic genes in a population producing the maternal optimum (and vice versa), it is shown that genetic conflict occurs between these genes. Even relatively low levels of inbreeding or subdivision can result in maternal-zygotic gene conflict over sex determination. The generality of maternal-zygotic gene conflict to sex determination evolution is discussed; such conflict should be considered in genetic studies of sex-determining mechanisms.

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