Modeling the Evolution of S. pombe Populations with Multiple Killer Meiotic Drivers

José Fabricio López Hernández, Boris Y Rubinstein, Robert L Unckless, Sarah E Zanders,  G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics,  2024.

Meiotic drivers are selfish genetic loci that can be transmitted to more than half of the viable gametes produced by a heterozygote. This biased transmission gives meiotic drivers an evolutionary advantage that can allow them to spread over generations until all members of a population carry the driver. This evolutionary power can also be exploited to modify natural populations using synthetic drivers known as ‘gene drives.’ Recently, it has become clear that natural drivers can spread within genomes to birth multicopy gene families. To understand intragenomic spread of drivers, we model the evolution of two or more distinct meiotic drivers in a population. We employ the wtf killer meiotic drivers from Schizosaccharomyces pombe, which are multicopy in all sequenced isolates, as models. We find that a duplicate wtf driver identical to the parent gene can spread in a population unless, or until, the original driver is fixed. When the duplicate driver diverges to be distinct from the parent gene, we find that both drivers spread to fixation under most conditions, but both drivers can be lost under some conditions. Finally, we show that stronger drivers make weaker drivers go extinct in most, but not all, polymorphic populations with absolutely linked drivers. These results reveal the strong potential for natural meiotic drive loci to duplicate and diverge within genomes. Our findings also highlight duplication potential as a factor to consider in the design of synthetic gene drives.

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