Selfish chromosomal drive shapes recent centromeric histone evolution in monkeyflowers

F. R. Finseth, T. C. Nelson and L. Fishman,  PLOS Genetics,  17:e1009418. 2021.

Centromeres must mediate faithful chromosomal transmission during cell division and sexual reproduction, but both the DNA and protein components of centromeres diverge rapidly across species. The selfish centromere model argues that this paradoxical diversity results from a genetic conflict between centromeric DNA variants driving through female meiosis to gain over-transmission and kinetochore proteins co-evolving to re-establish Mendelian segregation. We use whole genome sequencing and genetic crossing experiments to demonstrate active evolutionary interactions between a selfish centromere and a key kinetochore protein (CenH3A) in the wildflower Mimulus guttatus. We show that both inter-specific and intra-population differences in CenH3A affect centromeric drive in hybrids, and that adaptive evolution of CenH3A has followed the recent and costly spread of the driver in a wild population. This work provides novel empirical support for the proposed antagonistic co-evolution of the DNA and protein components of centromeres, with important consequences for understanding cellular function, individual fitness, and species divergence.

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