The functional transfer of genes from the mitochondria to the nucleus: The effects of selection, mutation, population size and rate of self-fertilization

Yaniv Brandvain, Michael J. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

The transfer of mitochondrial genes to the nucleus is a recurrent and consistent feature of eukaryotic genome evolution. Although many theories have been proposed to explain such transfers, little relevant data exist. The observation that clonal and self-fertilizing plants transfer more mitochondrial genes to their nuclei than do outcrossing plants contradicts predictions of major theories based on nuclear recombination and leaves a gap in our conceptual understanding how the observed pattern of gene transfer could arise. Here, with a series of deterministic and stochastic simulations, we show how epistatic selection and relative mutation rates of mitochondrial and nuclear genes influence mitochondrial-to-nuclear gene transfer. Specifically, we show that when there is a benefit to having a mitochondrial gene present in the nucleus, but absent in the mitochondria, self-fertilization dramatically increases both the rate and the probability of gene transfer. However, absent such a benefit, when mitochondrial mutation rates exceed those of the nucleus, self-fertilization decreases the rate and probability of transfer. This latter effect, however, is much weaker than the former. Our results are relevant to understanding the probabilities of fixation when loci in different genomes interact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1129-1139
Number of pages11
JournalGenetics
Volume182
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2009

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