Outcrossed sex allows a selfish gene to invade yeast populations

Goddard, MRG, D.; Burt, A.,  Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences,  268:2537-2542. 2001.

Homing endonuclease genes (HEGs) in eukaryotes are optional genes that have no obvious effect on host phenotype except for causing chromosomes not containing a cop), of the gene to be cut, thus causing them to be inherited at a greater than Mendelian rate via gene conversion. These genes are therefore expected to increase in frequency in outcrossed populations, but not in obligately selfed populations. In order to test this idea, we compared the dynamics of the VDE HEG in six replicate outcrossed and inbred populations of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). VDE increased in frequency from 0.21 to 0.55 in four outcrossed generations, but showed no change in frequency in the inbred populations. The absence of change in the inbred populations indicates that any effect of VDE on mitotic replication rates is less than 1%. The data from the outcrossed populations best fit a model in which 82% of individuals are derived from outcrossing and VDE is inherited by 74% of the meiotic products from heterozygotes (as compared with 50% for Mendelian genes), These results empirically demonstrate how a host mating system plays a key role in determining the population dynamics of a selfish gene.