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Genetics. 1993 Nov;135(3):923-30.

Evolutionary dynamics of spore killers.

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Department of Genetics, Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Spore killing in ascomycetes is a special form of segregation distortion. When a strain with the Killer genotype is crossed to a Sensitive type, spore killing is expressed by asci with only half the number of ascospores as usual, all surviving ascospores being of the Killer type. Using population genetic modeling, this paper explores conditions for invasion of Spore killers and for polymorphism of Killers, Sensitives and Resistants (which neither kill, nor get killed), as found in natural populations. The models show that a population with only Killers and Sensitives can never be stable. The invasion of Killers and stable polymorphism only occur if Killers have some additional advantage during the process of spore killing. This may be due to the effects of local sib competition or some kind of "heterozygous" advantage in the stage of ascospore formation or in the short diploid stage of the life cycle. This form of segregation distortion appears to be essentially different from other, well-investigated forms, and more field data are needed for a better understanding of spore killing.

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