On the Mechanistic Basis of Killer Meiotic Drive in Fungi

S. J. Saupe and H. Johannesson,  Annual Review of Microbiology,  76:305-323. 2022.

Spore killers are specific genetic elements in fungi that kill sexual spores that do not contain them. A range of studies in the last few years have provided the long-awaited first insights into the molecular mechanistic aspects of spore killing in different fungal models, including both yeast-forming and filamentous Ascomycota. Here we describe these recent advances, focusing on the wtf system in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe; the Sk spore killers of Neurospora species; and two spore-killer systems in Podospora anserina, Spok and [Het-s]. The spore killers appear thus far mechanistically unrelated. They can involve large genomic rearrangements but most often rely on the action of just a single gene. Data gathered so far show that the protein domains involved in the killing and resistance processes differ among the systems and are not homologous. The emerging picture sketched by these studies is thus one of great mechanistic and evolutionary diversity of elements that cheat during meiosis and are thereby preferentially inherited over sexual generations.

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