Journal of evolutionary biology

X chromosome drive in a widespread Palearctic woodland fly, Drosophila testacea.

PMID 28402000


Selfish genes that bias their own transmission during meiosis can spread rapidly in populations, even if they contribute negatively to the fitness of their host. Driving X chromosomes provide a clear example of this type of selfish propagation. These chromosomes have important evolutionary and ecological consequences, and can be found in a broad range of taxa including plants, mammals and insects. Here, we report a new case of X chromosome drive (X drive) in a widespread woodland fly, Drosophila testacea. We show that males carrying the driving X (SR males) sire 80-100% female offspring and possess a diagnostic X chromosome haplotype that is perfectly associated with the sex ratio distortion phenotype. We find that the majority of sons produced by SR males are sterile and appear to lack a Y chromosome, suggesting that meiotic defects involving the Y chromosome may underlie X drive in this species. Abnormalities in sperm cysts of SR males reflect that some spermatids are failing to develop properly, confirming that drive is acting during gametogenesis. By screening wild-caught flies using progeny sex ratios and a diagnostic marker, we demonstrate that the driving X is present in wild populations at a frequency of ~ 10% and that suppressors of drive are segregating in the same population. The testacea species group appears to be a hot spot for X drive, and D. testacea is a promising model to compare driving X chromosomes in closely related species, some of which may even be younger than the chromosomes themselves.