Meiotic drive favors Robertsonian metacentric chromosomes in the common shrew (Sorex araneus, Insectivora, Mammalia)

Wyttenbach, AB, P.; Hausser, J.,  Cytogenetics and Cell Genetics,  83:199-206. 1998.

Meiotic drive has attracted much interest because it concerns the robustness of Mendelian segregation and its genetic and evolutionary stability. We studied chromosomal meiotic drive in the common shrew (Sorex araneus, Insectivora, Mammalia), which exhibits one of the most remarkable chromosomal polymorphisms within mammalian species. The open question of the evolutionary success of metacentric chromosomes (Robertsonian fusions) versus acrocentrics in the common shrew prompted us to test whether a segregation distortion in favor of metacentrics is present in female and/or male meiosis. Performing crosses under controlled laboratory conditions with animals from natural populations, we found a clear trend toward a segregation distortion in favor of metacentrics during male meiosis, two chromosome combinations (gm and ji) being significantly preferred over their acrocentric homologs. Apart for one Robertsonian fusion (hi), this trend was absent in female meiosis. We propose a model based on recombination events between twin acrocentrics to explain the difference in transmission ratios of the same metacentric in different sexes and unequal drive of particular metacentrics in the same sex. Pooled data for female and male meiosis revealed a trend toward stronger segregation distortion for larger metacentrics. This is partially in agreement with the frequency of metacentrics occurring in natural populations of a chromosome race showing a high degree of chromosomal polymorphism.