Cell Biology of Cheating-Transmission of Centromeres and Other Selfish Elements Through Asymmetric Meiosis

Prog Mol Subcell Biol. 2017;56:377-396. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-58592-5_16.


Mendel's First Law of Genetics states that a pair of alleles segregates randomly during meiosis so that one copy of each is represented equally in gametes. Whereas male meiosis produces four equal sperm, in female meiosis only one cell, the egg, survives, and the others degenerate. Meiotic drive is a process in which a selfish DNA element exploits female meiotic asymmetry and segregates preferentially to the egg in violation of Mendel's First Law, thereby increasing its transmission to the offspring and frequency in a population. In principle, the selfish element can consist either of a centromere that increases its transmission via an altered kinetochore connection to the meiotic spindle or a centromere-like element that somehow bypasses the kinetochore altogether in doing so. There are now examples from eukaryotic model systems for both types of meiotic drive. Although meiotic drive has profound evolutionary consequences across many species, relatively little is known about the underlying mechanisms. We discuss examples in various systems and open questions about the underlying cell biology, and propose a mechanism to explain biased segregation in mammalian female meiosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Centromere* / genetics
  • Centromere* / metabolism
  • Chromosome Segregation
  • Female
  • Kinetochores
  • Meiosis* / genetics
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics
  • Spindle Apparatus