The Evolution of Genome Structure by Natural and Sexual Selection

J Hered. 2017 Jan;108(1):3-11. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esw041. Epub 2016 Jul 7.


Progress on understanding how genome structure evolves is accelerating with the arrival of new genomic, comparative, and theoretical approaches. This article reviews progress in understanding how chromosome inversions and sex chromosomes evolve, and how their evolution affects species' ecology. Analyses of clines in inversion frequencies in flies and mosquitoes imply strong local adaptation, and roles for both over- and under dominant selection. Those results are consistent with the hypothesis that inversions become established when they capture locally adapted alleles. Inversions can carry alleles that are beneficial to closely related species, causing them to introgress following hybridization. Models show that this "adaptive cassette" scenario can trigger large range expansions, as recently happened in malaria mosquitoes. Sex chromosomes are the most rapidly evolving genome regions of some taxa. Sexually antagonistic selection may be the key force driving transitions of sex determination between different pairs of chromosomes and between XY and ZW systems. Fusions between sex-chromosomes and autosomes most often involve the Y chromosome, a pattern that can be explained if fusions are mildly deleterious and fix by drift. Sexually antagonistic selection is one of several hypotheses to explain the recent discovery that the sex determination system has strong effects on the adult sex ratios of tetrapods. The emerging view of how genome structure evolves invokes a much richer constellation of forces than was envisioned during the Golden Age of research on Drosophila karyotypes.

Keywords: chromosome fusion; chromosome inversion; sex chromosome; sex ratio; sexually antagonistic selection; species range.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Animals
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Chromosome Inversion
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sex Chromosomes
  • Sex Determination Processes / genetics*
  • Sex Ratio