ABSTRACT: Mendel laws of inheritance can be cheated by Meiotic Drive Elements (MDs), complex nuclear genetic loci found in various eukaryotic genomes and distorting segregation in their favor. Here, we identify and characterize in the model fungus Podospora anserina Spok1 and Spok2, two MDs known as Spore Killers. We show that they are related genes with both spore-killing distorter and spore-protecting responder activities carried out by the same allele. These alleles act as autonomous elements, exert their effects independently of their location in the genome and can act as MDs in other fungi. Additionally, Spok1 acts as a resistance factor to Spok2 killing. Genetical data and cytological analysis of Spok1 and Spok2 localization during the killing process suggest a complex mode of action for Spok proteins. Spok1 and Spok2 belong to a multigene family prevalent in the genomes of many ascomycetes. As they have no obvious cellular role, Spok1 and Spok2 Spore Killer genes represent a novel kind of selfish genetic elements prevalent in fungal genome that proliferate through meiotic distortion.
Project description:Neurospora fungi harbor a group of meiotic drive elements known as Spore killers (Sk). Spore killer-2 (Sk-2) and Spore killer-3 (Sk-3) are two Sk elements that map to a region of suppressed recombination. Although this recombination block is limited to crosses between Sk and Sk-sensitive (Sk(S)) strains, its existence has hindered Sk characterization. Here we report the circumvention of this obstacle by combining a classical genetic screen with next-generation sequencing technology and three-point crossing assays. This approach has allowed us to identify a novel locus called rfk-1, mutation of which disrupts spore killing by Sk-2. We have mapped rfk-1 to a 45-kb region near the right border of the Sk-2 element, a location that also harbors an 11-kb insertion (Sk-2(INS1)) and part of a >220-kb inversion (Sk-2(INV1)). These are the first two chromosome rearrangements to be formally identified in a Neurospora Sk element, providing evidence that they are at least partially responsible for Sk-based recombination suppression. Additionally, the proximity of these chromosome rearrangements to rfk-1 (a critical component of the spore-killing mechanism) suggests that they have played a key role in the evolution of meiotic drive in Neurospora.
Project description:Spore killers in fungi are selfish genetic elements that distort Mendelian segregation in their favor. It remains unclear how many species harbor them and how diverse their mechanisms are. Here, we discover two spore killers from a natural isolate of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Both killers belong to the previously uncharacterized wtf gene family with 25 members in the reference genome. These two killers act in strain-background-independent and genome-location-independent manners to perturb the maturation of spores not inheriting them. Spores carrying one killer are protected from its killing effect but not that of the other killer. The killing and protecting activities can be uncoupled by mutation. The numbers and sequences of wtf genes vary considerably between S. pombe isolates, indicating rapid divergence. We propose that wtf genes contribute to the extensive intraspecific reproductive isolation in S. pombe, and represent ideal models for understanding how segregation-distorting elements act and evolve.
Project description:Most organisms are constantly adapting to pathogens and parasites that exploit their host for their own benefit. Less studied, but perhaps more ubiquitous, are intragenomic parasites or selfish genetic elements. These include transposable elements, selfish B chromosomes and meiotic drivers that promote their own replication without regard to fitness effects on hosts. Therefore, intragenomic parasites are also a constant evolutionary pressure on hosts. Gamete-killing meiotic drive elements are often associated with large chromosomal inversions that reduce recombination between the drive and wild-type chromosomes. This reduced recombination is thought to reduce the efficacy of selection on the drive chromosome and allow for the accumulation of deleterious mutations. We tested whether gamete-killing meiotic drive chromosomes were associated with reduced immune defence against two bacterial pathogens in three species of Drosophila. We found little evidence of reduced immune defence in lines with meiotic drive. One line carrying the Drosophila melanogaster autosomal Segregation Distorter did show reduced defence, but we were unable to attribute that reduced defence to either genotype or immune gene expression differences. Our results suggest that though gamete-killing meiotic drive chromosomes probably accumulate deleterious mutations, those mutations do not result in reduced capacity for immune defence.
Project description:Meiotic drive is a non-Mendelian inheritance phenomenon in which certain selfish genetic elements skew sexual transmission in their own favor. In some cases, progeny or gametes carrying a meiotic drive element can survive preferentially because it causes the death or malfunctioning of those that do not carry it. In Neurospora, meiotic drive can be observed in fungal spore killing. In a cross of Spore killer (Sk) × WT (Sk-sensitive), the ascospores containing the Spore killer allele survive, whereas the ones with the sensitive allele degenerate. Sk-2 and Sk-3 are the most studied meiotic drive elements in Neurospora, and they each theoretically contain two essential components: a killer element and a resistance gene. Here we report the identification and characterization of the Sk resistance gene, rsk (resistant to Spore killer). rsk seems to be a fungal-specific gene, and its deletion in a killer strain leads to self-killing. Sk-2, Sk-3, and naturally resistant isolates all use rsk for resistance. In each killer system, rsk sequences from an Sk strain and a resistant isolate are highly similar, suggesting that they share the same origin. Sk-2, Sk-3, and sensitive rsk alleles differ from each other by their unique indel patterns. Contrary to long-held belief, the killer targets not only late but also early ascospore development. The WT RSK protein is dispensable for ascospore production and is not a target of the spore-killing mechanism. Rather, a resistant version of RSK likely neutralizes the killer element and prevents it from interfering with ascospore development.
Project description:Sk-2 is a meiotic drive element that was discovered in wild populations of Neurospora fungi over 40 years ago. While early studies quickly determined that Sk-2 transmits itself through sexual reproduction in a biased manner via spore killing, the genetic factors responsible for this phenomenon have remained mostly unknown. Here, we identify and characterize rfk-1, a gene required for Sk-2-based spore killing. The rfk-1 gene contains four exons, three introns, and two stop codons, the first of which undergoes RNA editing to a tryptophan codon during sexual development. Translation of an unedited rfk-1 transcript in vegetative tissue is expected to produce a 102-amino acid protein, whereas translation of an edited rfk-1 transcript in sexual tissue is expected to produce a protein with 130 amino acids. These findings indicate that unedited and edited rfk-1 transcripts exist and that these transcripts could have different roles with respect to the mechanism of meiotic drive by spore killing. Regardless of RNA editing, spore killing only succeeds if rfk-1 transcripts avoid silencing caused by a genome defense process called meiotic silencing by unpaired DNA (MSUD). We show that rfk-1's MSUD avoidance mechanism is linked to the genomic landscape surrounding the rfk-1 gene, which is located near the Sk-2 border on the right arm of chromosome III. In addition to demonstrating that the location of rfk-1 is critical to spore-killing success, our results add to accumulating evidence that MSUD helps protect Neurospora genomes from complex meiotic drive elements.
Project description:The evolution of heteromorphic sex chromosomes creates a genetic condition favoring the invasion of sex-ratio meiotic drive elements, resulting in the biased transmission of one sex chromosome over the other, in violation of Mendel's first law. The molecular mechanisms of sex-ratio meiotic drive may therefore help us to understand the evolutionary forces shaping the meiotic behavior of the sex chromosomes. Here we characterize a sex-ratio distorter on the X chromosome (Dox) in Drosophila simulans by genetic and molecular means. Intriguingly, Dox has very limited coding capacity. It evolved from another X-linked gene, which also evolved de nova. Through retrotransposition, Dox also gave rise to an autosomal suppressor, not much yang (Nmy). An RNA interference mechanism seems to be involved in the suppression of the Dox distorter by the Nmy suppressor. Double mutant males of the genotype dox; nmy are normal for both sex-ratio and spermatogenesis. We postulate that recurrent bouts of sex-ratio meiotic drive and its subsequent suppression might underlie several common features observed in the heterogametic sex, including meiotic sex chromosome inactivation and achiasmy.
Project description:Meiotic drivers are selfish genetic elements that bias their transmission into gametes, often to the detriment of the rest of the genome. The resulting intragenomic conflicts triggered by meiotic drive create evolutionary arms races and shape genome evolution. The phenomenon of meiotic drive is widespread across taxa but is particularly prominent in the Drosophila genus. Recent studies in Drosophila have provided insights into the genetic origins of drivers and their molecular mechanisms. Here, we review the current literature on mechanisms of drive with an emphasis on sperm killers in Drosophila species. In these systems, meiotic drivers often evolve from gene duplications and targets are generally linked to heterochromatin. While dense in repetitive elements and difficult to study using traditional genetic and genomic approaches, recent work in Drosophila has made progress on the heterochromatic compartment of the genome. Although we still understand little about precise drive mechanisms, studies of male drive systems are converging on common themes such as heterochromatin regulation, small RNA pathways, and nuclear transport pathways. Meiotic drive systems are therefore promising models for discovering fundamental features of gametogenesis.
Project description:Meiotic drive is the preferential transmission of a particular allele during sexual reproduction. The phenomenon is observed as spore killing in multiple fungi. In natural populations of Podospora anserina, seven spore killer types (Psks) have been identified through classical genetic analyses. Here we show that the Spok gene family underlies the Psks. The combination of Spok genes at different chromosomal locations defines the spore killer types and creates a killing hierarchy within a population. We identify two novel Spok homologs located within a large (74-167 kbp) region (the Spok block) that resides in different chromosomal locations in different strains. We confirm that the SPOK protein performs both killing and resistance functions and show that these activities are dependent on distinct domains, a predicted nuclease and kinase domain. Genomic and phylogenetic analyses across ascomycetes suggest that the Spok genes disperse through cross-species transfer, and evolve by duplication and diversification within lineages.
Project description:Fusarium verticillioides is an agriculturally important fungus because of its association with maize and its propensity to contaminate grain with toxic compounds. Some isolates of the fungus harbor a meiotic drive element known as Spore killer (Sk(K)) that causes nearly all surviving meiotic progeny from an Sk(K) × Spore killer-susceptible (Sk(S)) cross to inherit the Sk(K) allele. Sk(K) has been mapped to chromosome V but the genetic element responsible for meiotic drive has yet to be identified. In this study, we used cleaved amplified polymorphic sequence markers to genotype individual progeny from an Sk(K) × Sk(S) mapping population. We also sequenced the genomes of three progeny from the mapping population to determine their single nucleotide polymorphisms. These techniques allowed us to refine the location of Sk(K) to a contiguous 102 kb interval of chromosome V, herein referred to as the Sk region. Relative to Sk(S) genotypes, Sk(K) genotypes have one extra gene within this region for a total of 42 genes. The additional gene in Sk(K) genotypes, herein named SKC1 for Spore Killer Candidate 1, is the most highly expressed gene from the Sk region during early stages of sexual development. The Sk region also has three hyper-variable regions, the longest of which includes SKC1 The possibility that SKC1, or another gene from the Sk region, is an essential component of meiotic drive and spore killing is discussed.
Project description:Genomic conflict occurs when a genomic component gains a reproductive advantage at the expense of the organism as a whole. X-linked segregation distorters kill or incapacitate Y-bearing sperm, thereby gaining a transmission advantage but also reducing male fertility and generating a female-biased sex ratio. When some damaged, Y-bearing sperm survive and fertilize eggs, then the segregation distortion phenotype could be expanded by harming or killing sons in the next generation. X-linked son-killers are predicted by theory to be favored by natural selection and evolve when brothers and sisters compete for shared limiting resources and/or when brothers reduce the inclusive fitness of their sisters via sib-mating-a phenomenon called SA-zygotic drive. Here I develop and use a process-of-elimination screen to show that an unclassified X-linked sex ratio distorter (skew) in Drosophila simulans kills or incapacitates noncarrier sperm and also kills a substantial proportion of sons, i.e., it has both a segregation distortion and a SA-zygotic drive phenotype. There are three unique X-linked segregation distorters known to occur in D. simulans named Winters, Durham, and Paris. Autosomal-dominant suppressors of Winters (Nmy) and Durham (Tmy) failed to suppress skew. A Y-linked suppressor of Paris, however, did suppress skew, and a recombination test failed to detect recombinants between these two sex ratio distorters, indicating that they are tightly linked and plausibly identical or allelic. Son-killing may be an important yet unrecognized component of other X-linked segregation distorters.