Genetic conflict and the origin of multigene families: implications for sex chromosome evolution

E. Martí and A. M. Larracuente,  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,  290:20231823. 2023.

Sex chromosomes are havens for intragenomic conflicts. The absence of recombination between sex chromosomes creates the opportunity for the evolution of segregation distorters: selfish genetic elements that hijack different aspects of an individual’s reproduction to increase their own transmission. Biased (non-Mendelian) segregation, however, often occurs at a detriment to their host’s fitness, and therefore can trigger evolutionary arms races that can have major consequences for genome structure and regulation, gametogenesis, reproductive strategies and even speciation. Here, we review an emerging feature from comparative genomic and sex chromosome evolution studies suggesting that meiotic drive is pervasive: the recurrent evolution of paralogous sex-linked gene families. Sex chromosomes of several species independently acquire and co-amplify rapidly evolving gene families with spermatogenesis-related functions, consistent with a history of intragenomic conflict over transmission. We discuss Y chromosome features that might contribute to the tempo and mode of evolution of X/Y co-amplified gene families, as well as their implications for the evolution of complexity in the genome. Finally, we propose a framework that explores the conditions that might allow for recurrent bouts of fixation of drivers and suppressors, in a dosage-sensitive fashion, and therefore the co-amplification of multigene families on sex chromosomes.

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