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Genetics. 2004 Apr;166(4):1751-9.

Mating within the meiotic tetrad and the maintenance of genomic heterozygosity.

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Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903, USA.


Mating among the products of a single meiosis (automixis or meiotic parthenogenesis) is found in diverse groups of plant, animal, and fungal taxa. Restoration of the diploid stage is often strictly controlled and brings together products separated at the first meiotic division. Despite apparent similarities to diploid selfing, the theoretical prediction is that heterozygosity should be maintained on all chromosomes when it is linked to the centromeres and thus also segregates at the first meiotic division. Using the fungus Microbotryum, we directly test this prediction by linear tetrad analysis. The patterns of meiotic segregation for chromosome size variation (electrophoretic karyotypes) and PCR products (AFLP procedures) were determined for Microbotryum lineages native to North America and Europe. Our data reveal a surprisingly dynamic genome that is rich in heterozygosity and where size-dimorphic autosomes are common. The genetic variation agrees with the prediction of centromere-linked heterozygosity. This was observed to the greatest extent in the lineage of Microbotryum native to North America where there was consistent first-division segregation and independent assortment of multiple linkage groups. The data also show properties that distinguish the fungal sex chromosomes from the autosomes in both lineages of Microbotryum. We describe a scenario where the mating system of automixis with first-division restitution is the result of feedback mechanisms to control exposure of genetic load.

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