The Segregation Distorter (SD) complex and the accumulation of deleterious genes in laboratory strains of Drosophila melanogaster

Dominguez, AS, E.; Albornoz, J.; Gutierrez, A.,  Theoretical and Applied Genetics,  87:479-486. 1993.

Segregation Distorter (SD) associated with the second chromosome of D. melanogaster is found in nature at equilibrium frequencies lower than 5%. We report extremely high frequencies of SD (30-50%) in two selected strains, established in 1976, and show it to be responsible for the accumulation of deleterious genes in chromosome II. Samples of chromosomes extracted over a 4-year period were characterized with respect to distortion, sensitivity, lethality, sterility, and inversions. SD chromosomes were inversion-free as they have been shown to be in the Mediterranean area. The cosmopolitan inversion In(2L)t was found associated with SD+ chromosomes. Lines polymorphic for SD have accumulated linked lethal and female-sterile genes approaching a near balanced system. It is proposed that deleterious genes linked in coupling to SD were accumulated by the balancing effect of distortion, while drift and restricted recombination account for the accumulation of deleterious genes linked in repulsion by a mechanism similar to Muller’s ratchet. Our results should not be viewed as a particular case as SD chromosomes associated with detrimental genes and inversions are present in almost all populations around the world. The system could evolve in the way we describe whenever equilibrium conditions are broken down in small populations and lead to an increase in SD frequency.