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Trends Genet. 2005 May;21(5):281-6.

Maternal inheritance, sexual conflict and the maladapted male.

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Department of Biology and Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA.


Females differ from males in transmitting not only nuclear genes but also cytoplasmic genetic elements (CGEs), including DNA in mitochondria, chloroplasts and microorganisms that are present in the cell. Until recently, evolutionary research has adopted a nucleocentric approach in which organelles have been viewed as subservient energy suppliers. In this article, we propose that a more equitable view of nuclear genes and organelle genomes will lead to a better understanding of the dynamics of sexual selection and the constraints on male adaptation. Maternal inheritance of CGEs intensifies sexually-antagonistic coevolution and provides a parsimonious explanation for the relatively high frequency in males of such apparently maladaptive traits as infertility, homosexuality and baldness.

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