Origin, evolution, and population genetics of the selfish Segregation Distorter gene duplication in European and African populations of Drosophila melanogaster

Brand, CLL, A. M.; Presgraves, D. C.,  Evolution,  69:1271-1283. 2015.

Meiotic drive elements are a special class of evolutionarily selfish genes that subvert Mendelian segregation to gain preferential transmission at the expense of homologous loci. Many drive elements appear to be maintained in populations as stable polymorphisms, their equilibrium frequencies determined by the balance between drive (increasing frequency) and selection (decreasing frequency). Here we show that a classic, seemingly balanced, drive system is instead characterized by frequent evolutionary turnover giving rise to dynamic, rather than stable, equilibrium frequencies. The autosomal Segregation Distorter (SD) system of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a selfish coadapted meiotic drive gene complex in which the major driver corresponds to a partial duplication of the gene Ran-GTPase activating protein (RanGAP). SD chromosomes segregate at similar, low frequencies of 1-5% in natural populations worldwide, consistent with a balanced polymorphism. Surprisingly, our population genetic analyses reveal evidence for parallel, independent selective sweeps of different SD chromosomes in populations on different continents. These findings suggest that, rather than persisting at a single stable equilibrium, SD chromosomes turn over frequently within populations.