An extrachromosomal factor causing loss of paternal chromosomes

Nature. 1987 May 7-13;327(6117):75-6. doi: 10.1038/327075a0.


Extrachromosomal inheritance is ubiquitous among plants and animals; however, most extrachromosomal factors are uniparentally inherited through females, but not through males. Examples include chloroplasts, mitochondria and a variety of intracellular symbionts. The only known exception to maternal extrachromosomal inheritance in an animal is a paternally transmitted sex ratio factor (psr) which causes all-male families in the parasitic wasp, Nasonia vitripennis. Normally in this wasp, male offspring are haploid and develop from unfertilized eggs whereas females are diploid and develop from fertilized eggs. The psr factor is either a venereally transmitted infection which prevents egg fertilization (and therefore causes all-male families), or a factor transmitted to eggs by the sperm of males carrying psr, which somehow prevents incorporation of the paternal chromosomes. Here we report that sperm from psr males fertilizes eggs, but that the paternal chromosomes are subsequently condensed into a chromatin mass before the first mitotic division of the egg and do not participate in further divisions. Resulting haploid offspring are male, but have inherited the paternal factor. This extrachromosomal factor promotes its own transmission at the expense of the paternal chromosomes, and therefore can be considered a 'selfish' genetic element.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure
  • Chromosome Deletion*
  • Extrachromosomal Inheritance*
  • Female
  • Fertilization
  • Genes
  • Hymenoptera / genetics*
  • Male
  • Spermatozoa / ultrastructure
  • Wasps / genetics*


  • Chromatin