Population genetics of a parasitic chromosome – Experimental analysis of PSR in subdivided populaltions

Beukeboom, LWW, J. H.,  Evolution,  46:1257-1268. 1992.

Nasonia vitripennis is a parasitoid wasp that harbors several non-Mendelian sex-ratio distorters. These include MSR (Maternal Sex Ratio), a cytoplasmic element that causes nearly all-female families, and PSR (Paternal Sex Ratio), a supernumerary chromosome that causes all-male families. As in other hymenoptera, N. vitripennis has haplodiploid sex determination. Normally, unfertilized (haploid) eggs develop into males and fertilized (diploid) eggs develop into females. The PSR chromosome violates this normal pattern; it is inherited through sperm, but then causes destruction of the paternal chromosomes (except itself, thus converting diploid fertilized eggs (normally females) into haploid eggs that develop into PSR-bearing males. PSR is an extreme example of “parasitic” or “selfish” DNA. Because N. vitripennis has a highly subdivided population structure in nature, population-level selection may be important in determining the dynamics of PSR in natural populations. A theoretical analysis shows that subdivided population structure reduces PSR frequency, whereas high fertilization proportion (such as produced by the MSR element) increases PSR frequency. Population experiments using two deme sizes (3- and 12-foundress groups) and strains producing two fertilization proportions [wild-type (LabII)-57-67% female, and MSR (MI)-90-93% female] confirm these predictions. PSR achieved frequencies over 0.90 in 12-foundress group MSR populations in contrast to 0.20-0.40 in wild-type 12-foundress populations. PSR was selected against in wild-type populations composed of three-foundress groups. In MSR populations with three-foundress groups, presence of PSR selected against the MSR cytoplasmic element, eventually leading to low frequencies of both PSR and MSR. Complicated dynamics may occur when these two sex-ratio distorters are both present in highly subdivided populations. The existence of PSR in natural populations may depend on the presence of MSR. Results indicate that population subdivision could be important in determining the frequency of sex ratio distorters in N. vitripennis.