Consequences of Asexuality in Natural Populations: Insights from Stick Insects

Mol Biol Evol. 2018 Jul 1;35(7):1668-1677. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msy058.


Recombination is a fundamental process with significant impacts on genome evolution. Predicted consequences of the loss of recombination include a reduced effectiveness of selection, changes in the amount of neutral polymorphisms segregating in populations, and an arrest of GC-biased gene conversion. Although these consequences are empirically well documented for nonrecombining genome portions, it remains largely unknown if they extend to the whole genome scale in asexual organisms. We identify the consequences of asexuality using de novo transcriptomes of five independently derived, obligately asexual lineages of stick insects, and their sexual sister-species. We find strong evidence for higher rates of deleterious mutation accumulation, lower levels of segregating polymorphisms and arrested GC-biased gene conversion in asexuals as compared with sexuals. Taken together, our study conclusively shows that predicted consequences of genome evolution under asexuality can indeed be found in natural populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Conversion*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Insecta / genetics*
  • Mutation Accumulation*
  • Reproduction, Asexual*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Silent Mutation