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Selfing is the safest sex for Caenorhabditis tropicalis

Luke M Noble, John Yuen, Lewis Stevens, Nicolas Moya, Riaad Persaud, Marc Moscatelli, Jacqueline L Jackson, Gaotian Zhang, Rojin Chitrakar, L Ryan Baugh, Christian Braendle, Erik C Andersen, Hannah S Seidel, Matthew V Rockman


Mating systems have profound effects on genetic diversity and compatibility. The convergent evolution of self-fertilization in three Caenorhabditis species provides a powerful lens to examine causes and consequences of mating system transitions. Among the selfers, Caenorhabditis tropicalis is the least genetically diverse and most afflicted by outbreeding depression. We generated a chromosomal-scale genome for C. tropicalis and surveyed global diversity. Population structure is very strong, and islands of extreme divergence punctuate a genomic background that is highly homogeneous around the globe. Outbreeding depression in the laboratory is caused largely by multiple Medea-like elements, genetically consistent with maternal toxin/zygotic antidote systems. Loci with Medea activity harbor novel and duplicated genes, and their activity is modified by mito-nuclear background. Segregating Medea elements dramatically reduce fitness, and simulations show that selfing limits their spread. Frequent selfing in C. tropicalis may therefore be a strategy to avoid Medea-mediated outbreeding depression.

Keywords : C. elegans ; balancing selection ; caenorhabditis tropicalis ; evolutionary biology ; gene drive ; genetics ; genomics ; mating systems ; population genetics ; selfing.

More information

Elife. 2021 Jan 11 ;10:e62587. doi : 10.7554/eLife.62587