Patterns and mechanisms of sex ratio distortion in the Collaborative Cross mouse mapping population

B. A. Haines, F. Barradale and B. L. Dumont,  Genetics,  219:iyab136. 2021.

In species with single-locus, chromosome-based mechanisms of sex determination, the laws of segregation predict an equal ratio of females to males at birth. Here, we show that departures from this Mendelian expectation are commonplace in the 8-way recombinant inbred Collaborative Cross (CC) mouse population. More than one-third of CC strains exhibit significant sex ratio distortion (SRD) at wean, with twice as many male-biased than female-biased strains. We show that these pervasive sex biases persist across multiple breeding environments, are stable over time, and are not mediated by random maternal effects. SRD exhibits a heritable component, but QTL mapping analyses fail to nominate any large effect loci. These findings, combined with the reported absence of sex ratio biases in the CC founder strains, suggest that SRD manifests from multilocus combinations of alleles only uncovered in recombined CC genomes. We explore several potential complex genetic mechanisms for SRD, including allelic interactions leading to sex-biased lethality, genetic sex reversal, chromosome drive mediated by sex-linked selfish elements, and incompatibilities between specific maternal and paternal genotypes. We show that no one mechanism offers a singular explanation for this population-wide SRD. Instead, our data present preliminary evidence for the action of distinct mechanisms of SRD at play in different strains. Taken together, our work exposes the pervasiveness of SRD in the CC population and nominates the CC as a powerful resource for investigating diverse genetic causes of biased sex chromosome transmission.

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