Whole-chromosome hitchhiking driven by a male-killing endosymbiont

Simon Martin, Saurabh Kumar Singh, Ian J. Gordon, Kennedy Saitoti Omufwoko, Steve Collins, Ian A Warren, Hannah Munby, Oskar Brattström, Walther Traut, Dino J. Martins, David A.S. Smith, Chris D. Jiggins, Chris Bass, Richard H Ffrench-Constant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Neo-sex chromosomes are found in many taxa, but the forces driving their emergence and spread are poorly understood. The female-specific neo-W chromosome of the African monarch (or queen) butterfly Danaus chrysippus presents an intriguing case study because it is restricted to a single ‘contact zone’ population, involves a putative colour patterning supergene, and co-occurs with infection by the the male-killing endosymbiont Sprioplasma. We investigated the origin and evolution of this system using whole genome sequencing. We first identify the ‘BC supergene’, a large region of suppressed recombination that links two colour patterning loci. Association analysis suggests that the genes yellow and arrow control the forewing colour pattern differences between D. chrysippus subspecies. We then show that the same chromosome has recently formed a neo-W that has spread through the contact zone within ~2200 years. We also assembled the genome of the male-killing Spiroplasma, and find that it shows perfect genealogical congruence with the neo-W, suggesting that the neo-W has hitchhiked to high frequency as the male killer has spread through the population. The complete absence of female crossing-over in the Lepidoptera causes whole-chromosome hitchhiking of a single neo-W haplotype, carrying a single allele of the BC supergene, and dragging multiple non-synonymous mutations to high frequency. This has created a population of infected females that all carry the same recessive colour patterning allele, making the phenotypes of each successive generation highly dependent on uninfected male immigrants. Our findings show how hitchhiking can occur between the unlinked genomes of host and endosymbiont, with dramatic consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3000610
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2020


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