A fundamental tenet of inheritance in sexually reproducing organisms such as humans and laboratory mice is that gametes combine randomly at fertilization, thereby ensuring a balanced and statistically predictable representation of inherited variants in each generation. This principle is encapsulated in Mendel's First Law. But exceptions are known. With transmission ratio distortion, particular alleles are preferentially transmitted to offspring. Preferential transmission usually occurs in one sex but not both, and is not known to require interactions between gametes at fertilization. A reanalysis of our published work in mice and of data in other published reports revealed instances where any of 12 mutant genes biases fertilization, with either too many or too few heterozygotes and homozygotes, depending on the mutant gene and on dietary conditions. Although such deviations are usually attributed to embryonic lethality of the underrepresented genotypes, the evidence is more consistent with genetically-determined preferences for specific combinations of egg and sperm at fertilization that result in genotype bias without embryo loss. This unexpected discovery of genetically-biased fertilization could yield insights about the molecular and cellular interactions between sperm and egg at fertilization, with implications for our understanding of inheritance, reproduction, population genetics, and medical genetics.
Keywords: fertilization; gametes; meiosis; segregation; transmission ratio distortion.
Copyright © 2017 by the Genetics Society of America.