The fate of a suppressed X-linked meiotic driver: experimental evolution in Drosophila simulans

H. Bastide, D. Ogereau, C. Montchamp-Moreau and P. R. Gérard,  Chromosome Research,  2022.

Sex-ratio (SR) meiotic drivers are X-linked selfish genetic elements that promote their own transmission by preventing the production of Y-bearing sperm, which usually lowers male fertility. The spread of SR drivers in populations is expected to trigger the evolution of unlinked drive suppressors, a theoretically predicted co-evolution that has been observed in nature. Once completely suppressed, the drivers are expected either to decline if they still affect the fitness of their carriers, or to evolve randomly and possibly get fixed if the suppressors eliminate their deleterious effects. To explore this issue, we used the Paris sex-ratio system of Drosophila simulans in which drive results from the joint effect of two elements on the X chromosome: a segmental duplication and a deficient allele of the HP1D2 gene. We set up six experimental populations starting with 2/3 of X chromosomes carrying both elements (X(SR)) in a fully suppressing background. We let them evolve independently during almost a hundred generations under strong sexual competition, a condition known to cause the rapid disappearance of unsuppressed Paris X(SR) in previous experimental populations. In our study, the fate of X(SR) chromosomes varied among populations, from extinction to their maintenance at a frequency close to the starting one. While the reasons for these variable outcomes are still to be explored, our results show that complete suppression can prevent the demise of an otherwise deleterious X(SR) chromosome, turning a genetic conflict into cooperation between unlinked loci. Observations in natural populations suggest a contrasting fate of the two elements: disappearance of the duplication and maintenance of deficient HP1D2 alleles.

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