Giraldo-Perez P and Goddard MR (2013) A parasitic selfish gene that affects host promiscuity. Proc Biol Sci 280(1770):20131875
Abstract: Selfish genes demonstrate transmission bias and invade sexual populations despite conferring no benefit to their hosts. While the molecular genetics and evolutionary dynamics of selfish genes are reasonably well characterized, their effects on hosts are not. Homing endonuclease genes (HEGs) are one well-studied family of selfish genes that are assumed to be benign. However, we show that carrying HEGs is costly for Saccharomyces cerevisiae, demonstrating that these genetic elements are not necessarily benign but maybe parasitic. We estimate a selective load of approximately 1-2% in 'natural' niches. The second aspect we examine is the ability of HEGs to affect hosts' sexual behaviour. As all selfish genes critically rely on sex for spread, then any selfish gene correlated with increased host sexuality will enjoy a transmission advantage. While classic parasites are known to manipulate host behaviour, we are not aware of any evidence showing a selfish gene is capable of affecting host promiscuity. The data presented here show a selfish element may increase the propensity of its eukaryote host to undergo sex and along with increased rates of non-Mendelian inheritance, this may counterbalance mitotic selective load and promote spread. Demonstration that selfish genes are correlated with increased promiscuity in eukaryotes connects with ideas suggesting that selfish genes promoted the evolution of sex initially.
|Status: Published||Type: Journal Article||PubMed ID: 24048156|
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