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Large-Scale Selective Sweep among Segregation Distorter Chromosomes in African Populations of Drosophila melanogaster

By Daven C. Presgraves, Pierre R. Gérard, Anjuli Cherukuri and Terrence W. Lyttle


Segregation Distorter (SD) is a selfish, coadapted gene complex on chromosome 2 of Drosophila melanogaster that strongly distorts Mendelian transmission; heterozygous SD/SD+ males sire almost exclusively SD-bearing progeny. Fifty years of genetic, molecular, and theory work have made SD one of the best-characterized meiotic drive systems, but surprisingly the details of its evolutionary origins and population dynamics remain unclear. Earlier analyses suggested that the SD system arose recently in the Mediterranean basin and then spread to a low, stable equilibrium frequency (1–5%) in most natural populations worldwide. In this report, we show, first, that SD chromosomes occur in populations in sub-Saharan Africa, the ancestral range of D. melanogaster, at a similarly low frequency (∼2%), providing evidence for the robustness of its equilibrium frequency but raising doubts about the Mediterranean-origins hypothesis. Second, our genetic analyses reveal two kinds of SD chromosomes in Africa: inversion-free SD chromosomes with little or no transmission advantage; and an African-endemic inversion-bearing SD chromosome, SD-Mal, with a perfect transmission advantage. Third, our population genetic analyses show that SD-Mal chromosomes swept across the African continent very recently, causing linkage disequilibrium and an absence of variability over 39% of the length of the second chromosome. Thus, despite a seemingly stable equilibrium frequency, SD chromosomes continue to evolve, to compete with one another, or evade suppressors in the genome

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