Recurrent selection on the Winters sex-ratio genes in Drosophila simulans

Genetics. 2010 Jan;184(1):253-65. doi: 10.1534/genetics.109.109587. Epub 2009 Nov 6.


Selfish genes, such as meiotic drive elements, propagate themselves through a population without increasing the fitness of host organisms. X-linked (or Y-linked) meiotic drive elements reduce the transmission of the Y (X) chromosome and skew progeny and population sex ratios, leading to intense conflict among genomic compartments. Drosophila simulans is unusual in having a least three distinct systems of X chromosome meiotic drive. Here, we characterize naturally occurring genetic variation at the Winters sex-ratio driver (Distorter on the X or Dox), its progenitor gene (Mother of Dox or MDox), and its suppressor gene (Not Much Yang or Nmy), which have been previously mapped and characterized. We survey three North American populations as well as 13 globally distributed strains and present molecular polymorphism data at the three loci. We find that all three genes show signatures of selection in North America, judging from levels of polymorphism and skews in the site-frequency spectrum. These signatures likely result from the biased transmission of the driver and selection on the suppressor for the maintenance of equal sex ratios. Coalescent modeling indicates that the timing of selection is more recent than the age of the alleles, suggesting that the driver and suppressor are coevolving under an evolutionary "arms race." None of the Winters sex-ratio genes are fixed in D. simulans, and at all loci we find ancestral alleles, which lack the gene insertions and exhibit high levels of nucleotide polymorphism compared to the derived alleles. In addition, we find several "null" alleles that have mutations on the derived Dox background, which result in loss of drive function. We discuss the possible causes of the maintenance of presence-absence polymorphism in the Winters sex-ratio genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • California
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Conversion
  • Genes, Insect / genetics*
  • Genetic Loci / genetics
  • Haplotypes
  • INDEL Mutation
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Male
  • Nucleotides / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sex Ratio*
  • Time Factors
  • X Chromosome / genetics


  • Nucleotides