The uniparental inheritance (UPI) of mitochondria is thought to explain the evolution of two mating types or even true sexes with anisogametes. However, the exact role of UPI is not clearly understood. Here, we develop a new model, which considers the spread of UPI mutants within a biparental inheritance (BPI) population. Our model explicitly considers mitochondrial mutation and selection in parallel with the spread of UPI mutants and self-incompatible mating types. In line with earlier work, we find that UPI improves fitness under mitochondrial mutation accumulation, selfish conflict and mitonuclear coadaptation. However, we find that as UPI increases in the population its relative fitness advantage diminishes in a frequency-dependent manner. The fitness benefits of UPI 'leak' into the biparentally reproducing part of the population through successive matings, limiting the spread of UPI. Critically, while this process favours some degree of UPI, it neither leads to the establishment of linked mating types nor the collapse of multiple mating types to two. Only when two mating types exist beforehand can associated UPI mutants spread to fixation under the pressure of high mitochondrial mutation rate, large mitochondrial population size and selfish mutants. Variation in these parameters could account for the range of UPI actually observed in nature, from strict UPI in some Chlamydomonas species to BPI in yeast. We conclude that UPI of mitochondria alone is unlikely to have driven the evolution of two mating types in unicellular eukaryotes.
Keywords: mating types; mitochondria; mitonuclear coadaptation; selfish conflict; sexes; uniparental inheritance.