Sex-ratio drive in Drosophila simulans: Variation in segregation ratio of X chromosomes from a natural population

Montchamp-Moreau, CC, M.,  Genetics,  162:1221-1231. 2002.

The sex-ratio trait that exists in a dozen Drosophila species is a case of naturally occurring X chromosome drive that causes males to produce female-biased progeny. Autosomal and Y polymorphism for suppressors are known to cause variation in drive expression, but the X chromosome polymorphism has never been thoroughly investigated. We characterized 41 X chromosomes from a natural population of Drosophila simulans that had been transferred to a suppressor-free genetic background. We found two clear-cut groups of chromosomes, sex-ratio and standard. The sex-ratio X chromosomes differed in their segregation ratio (81-96% females in the progeny), the less powerful drivers being less stable in their expression. A sib analysis, using a moderate driver, indicated that within-X variation in drive expression depended on genetic (autosomal) or epigenetic factors and that the age of the males also affected the trait. The other X chromosomes produced equal or roughly equal sex ratios, but again with significant variation. The continuous pattern of variation observed within both groups suggested that, in addition to a major sex-ratio gene, many X-linked loci of small effect modify the segregation ratio of this chromosome and are maintained in a polymorphic state. This was also supported by the frequency distribution of sex ratios produced by recombinant X chromosomes.