Common Features of Segregation Distortion in Plants and Animals
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Segregation distortion is increasingly recognized as a potentially powerful evolutionary force. This runs counter to the perception that non-Mendelian genes are rare genetic curiosities, a view that seems to be supported by the near ubiquity of the Mendelian system of inheritance. There are several reasons why segregation distortion may be more important than is evidenced by known empirical examples. One possibility is that the types of segregation distorters we have found are only a subset of a broader range of non-Mendelian systems, many of which go undetected. In this paper, we review what is known about the sex-linked meiotic drive system in the plant, Silene latifolia, and present some data on the mechanism of segregation distortion. We outline the general features that segregation distorters in plants and animals have in common. In some cases, such as the paucity of systems that directly alter meiotic segregation, there are likely to be inherent constraints on the range of systems that can possibly occur. Other generalities, however, support the notion that many forms of meiotic drive are possible, and that the known examples of segregation distortion are likely to be only subset of those that can possibly occur. Non-Mendelian genes may therefore have greater evolutionary importance than their current abundance in nature would suggest.
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