Selfish genetic elements, genetic conflict, and evolutionary innovation

Werren, JH,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,  108:10863-10870. 2011.

Genomes are vulnerable to selfish genetic elements (SGEs), which enhance their own transmission relative to the rest of an individual’s genome but are neutral or harmful to the individual as a whole. As a result, genetic conflict occurs between SGEs and other genetic elements in the genome. There is growing evidence that SGEs, and the resulting genetic conflict, are an important motor for evolutionary change and innovation. In this review, the kinds of SGEs and their evolutionary consequences are described, including how these elements shape basic biological features, such as genome structure and gene regulation, evolution of new genes, origin of new species, and mechanisms of sex determination and development. The dynamics of SGEs are also considered, including possible “evolutionary functions” of SGEs.