Meiotic drive mechanisms: lessons from Drosophila

C. Courret, C.-H. Chang, K. H.-C. Wei, C. Montchamp-Moreau and A. M. Larracuente,  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,  286:20191430. 2019.

Meiotic drivers are selfish genetic elements that bias their transmission into gametes, often to the detriment of the rest of the genome. The resulting intragenomic conflicts triggered by meiotic drive create evolutionary arms races and shape genome evolution. The phenomenon of meiotic drive is widespread across taxa but is particularly prominent in the Drosophila genus. Recent studies in Drosophila have provided insights into the genetic origins of drivers and their molecular mechanisms. Here, we review the current literature on mechanisms of drive with an emphasis on sperm killers in Drosophila species. In these systems, meiotic drivers often evolve from gene duplications and targets are generally linked to heterochromatin. While dense in repetitive elements and difficult to study using traditional genetic and genomic approaches, recent work in Drosophila has made progress on the heterochromatic compartment of the genome. Although we still understand little about precise drive mechanisms, studies of male drive systems are converging on common themes such as heterochromatin regulation, small RNA pathways, and nuclear transport pathways. Meiotic drive systems are therefore promising models for discovering fundamental features of gametogenesis.