The genetic basis and experimental evolution of inbreeding depression in Caenorhabditis elegans

Heredity (Edinb). 2014 Mar;112(3):248-54. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.100. Epub 2013 Oct 16.


Determining the genetic basis of inbreeding depression is important for understanding the role of selection in the evolution of mixed breeding systems. Here, we investigate how androdioecy (a breeding system characterized by partial selfing and outcrossing) and dioecy (characterized by obligatory outcrossing) influence the experimental evolution of inbreeding depression in Caenorhabditis elegans. We derived inbred lines from ancestral and evolved populations and found that the dioecious lineages underwent more extinction than androdioecious lineages. For both breeding systems, however, there was selection during inbreeding because the diversity patterns of 337 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) among surviving inbred lines deviated from neutral expectations. In parallel, we also followed the evolution of embryo to adult viability, which revealed similar starting levels of inbreeding depression in both breeding systems, but also outbreeding depression. Under androdioecy, diversity at a neutral subset of 134 SNPs correlated well with the viability trajectories, showing that the population genetic structure imposed by partial selfing affected the opportunity for different forms of selection. Our findings suggest that the interplay between the disruptions of coevolved sets of loci by outcrossing, the efficient purging of deleterious recessive alleles with selfing and overdominant selection with outcrossing can help explain mixed breeding systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population
  • Inbreeding*
  • Mortality
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*