Ability of a selfish B chromosome to evade genome elimination in the jewel wasp, Nasonia vitripennis

H. Lee, P. Seo, S. Teklay, E. Yuguchi, E. D. Benetta, J. H. Werren and P. M. Ferree,  Heredity,  2023.

B chromosomes are non-essential, extra chromosomes that can exhibit transmission-enhancing behaviors, including meiotic drive, mitotic drive, and induction of genome elimination, in plants and animals. A fundamental but poorly understood question is what characteristics allow B chromosomes to exhibit these extraordinary behaviors. The jewel wasp, Nasonia vitripennis, harbors a heterochromatic, paternally transmitted B chromosome known as paternal sex ratio (PSR), which causes complete elimination of the sperm-contributed half of the genome during the first mitotic division of fertilized embryos. This genome elimination event may result from specific, previously observed alterations of the paternal chromatin. Due to the haplo-diploid reproduction of the wasp, genome elimination by PSR causes female-destined embryos to develop as haploid males that transmit PSR. PSR does not undergo self-elimination despite its presence with the paternal chromatin until the elimination event. Here we performed fluorescence microscopic analyses aimed at understanding this unexplained property. Our results show that PSR, like the rest of the genome, participates in the histone-to-protamine transition, arguing that PSR does not avoid this transition to escape self-elimination. In addition, PSR partially escapes the chromatin-altering activity of the intracellular bacterium, Wolbachia, demonstrating that this ability to evade chromatin alteration is not limited to PSR’s own activity. Finally, we observed that the rDNA locus and other unidentified heterochromatic regions of the wasp’s genome also seem to evade chromatin disruption by PSR, suggesting that PSR’s genome-eliminating activity does not affect heterochromatin. Thus, PSR may target an aspect of euchromatin to cause genome elimination.

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