Genetics and Genomics of an Unusual Selfish Sex Ratio Distortion in an Insect




Hamilton, Phineas T.
Hodson, Christina N.
Curtis, Caitlin I.
Perlman, Steve

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Current Biology


Diverse selfish genetic elements have evolved the ability to manipulate reproduction to increase their transmission, and this can result in highly distorted sex ratios [1]. Indeed, one of the major explanations for why sex determination systems are so dynamic is because they are shaped by ongoing coevolutionary arms races between sex-ratio-distorting elements and the rest of the genome [2]. Here, we use genetic crosses and genome analysis to describe an unusual sex ratio distortion with striking consequences on genome organization in a booklouse species, Liposcelis sp. (Insecta: Psocodea), in which two types of females coexist. Distorter females never produce sons but must mate with males (the sons of nondistorting females) to reproduce [3]. Although they are diploid and express the genes inherited from their fathers in somatic tissues, distorter females only ever transmit genes inherited from their mothers. As a result, distorter females have unusual chimeric genomes, with distorter-restricted chromosomes diverging from their nondistorting counterparts and exhibiting features of a giant non-recombining sex chromosome. The distorter-restricted genome has also acquired a gene from the bacterium Wolbachia, a well-known insect reproductive manipulator; we found that this gene has independently colonized the genomes of two other insect species with unusual reproductive systems, suggesting possible roles in sex ratio distortion in this remarkable genetic system.



sex ratio, Wolbachia, paternal genome elimination, selfish genetic elements, genetic conflict, sex determination, lice, booklice


Hamilton, P.T., Hodson, C.N., Curtis, C.I. & Perlman, S.J. (2018). Genetics and Genomics of an Unusual Selfish Sex Ratio Distortion in an Insect. Current Biology, 28(23), 3864-3870.e4.