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Evolution. 2011 Feb;65(2):554-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01148.x. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

The evolution and suppression of male suicide under paternal genome elimination.

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Theoretical Biology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands.


Different genetic systems can be both the cause and the consequence of genetic conflict over the transmission of genes, obscuring their evolutionary origin. For instance, with paternal genome elimination (PGE), found in some insects and mites, both sexes develop from fertilized eggs, but in males the paternally derived chromosomes are either lost (embryonic PGE) or deactivated (germline PGE) during embryogenesis and not transmitted to the next generation. Evolution of germline PGE requires two transitions: (1) elimination of the paternal genome during spermatogenesis; (2) deactivation of the paternal genome early in development. Hypotheses for the evolution of PGE have mainly focused on the first transition. However, maternal genes seem to be responsible for the deactivation and here we investigate if maternal suppression could have evolved in response to paternally expressed male suicide genes. We show that sibling competition can cause such genes to spread quickly and that inbreeding is necessary to prevent fixation of male suicide, and subsequent population extinction. Once male-suicide has evolved, maternally expressed suppressor genes can invade in the population. Our results highlight the rich opportunity for genetic conflict in asymmetric genetic systems and the counterintuitive phenotypes that can evolve as a result.

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