PSR (paternal sex ratio) chromosomes: the ultimate selfish genetic elements

Genetica. 2003 Jan;117(1):85-101. doi: 10.1023/a:1022368700752.


PSR (paternal sex ratio) chromosomes are a type of supernumerary (or B) chromosomes that occur in haplodiploid arthropods. They are transmitted through sperm but then cause loss of the paternal chromosomes (except themselves) early in development. As a result, PSR chromosomes convert diploid fertilized eggs (which would normally develop into females) into haploid males that carry a PSR chromosome. Because they act by completely eliminating the haploid genome of their 'hosts', PSR chromosomes are the most extreme form of selfish or parasitic DNA known. PSR was originally described in the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis (Pteromalidae). A second PSR chromosome has been found in Trichogrimmna kaykai, an egg parasitoid from a different family of Hymenoptera (Trichogrammatidae). We argue that PSR chromosomes are likely to be widespread in haplodiploid organisms, but have so far gone under reported due to a paucity of population genetic studies in haplodiploids. We describe the two known PSR systems and related phenomena, and models indicating the conditions conducive to increase of PSR like chromosomes in haplodiploids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Hymenoptera / genetics*
  • Inbreeding
  • Population Dynamics
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Sex Determination Processes
  • Sex Ratio