Occasional recombination of a selfish X-chromosome may permit its persistence at high frequencies in the wild

Pieper, KED, K. A.,  Journal of Evolutionary Biology,  29:2229-2241. 2016.

The sex-ratio X-chromosome (SR) is a selfish chromosome that promotes its own transmission to the next generation by destroying Y-bearing sperm in the testes of carrier males. In some natural populations of the fly Drosophila neotestacea, up to 30% of the X-chromosomes are SR chromosomes. To investigate the molecular evolutionary history and consequences of SR, we sequenced SR and standard (ST) males at 11 X-linked loci that span the ST X-chromosome and at seven arbitrarily chosen autosomal loci from a sample of D. neotestacea males from throughout the species range. We found that the evolutionary relationship between ST and SR varies among individual markers, but genetic differentiation between SR and ST is chromosome-wide and likely due to large chromosomal inversions that suppress recombination. However, SR does not consist of a single multilocus haplotype: we find evidence for gene flow between ST and SR at every locus assayed. Furthermore, we do not find long-distance linkage disequilibrium within SR chromosomes, suggesting that recombination occurs in females homozygous for SR. Finally, polymorphism on SR is reduced compared to that on ST, and loci displaying signatures of selection on ST do not show similar patterns on SR. Thus, even if selection is less effective on SR, our results suggest that gene flow with ST and recombination between SR chromosomes may prevent the accumulation of deleterious mutations and allow its long-term persistence at relatively high frequencies.