Selfish Genetic Elements

During my undergraduate I realised I needed to get some laboratory experience. I was lucky enough to be snapped up by Nina Wedell's research group where I helped manage Drosophila populations for Tom Price.

 

Tom was conducting several experiments to investigate selfish genetic elements (SGEs). SGEs are genes that promote their own success at the cost of the rest of the genes in the genome. Some SGEs can lead to the unequal transmission of sex chromosomes resulting in biased sex ratios. Males seem to be particularly vulnerable to SGEs and when a male is a carrier they suffer reduced fitness. For example, some SGEs damage sperm which carry the alternative allele. This reduces the males fertility and overall fitness.

 

Tom's work invovled the species Drosophila pseudoobscura, which is victim to a SGE called 'sex ratio' (SR). This SGE causes the production of female-only broods, preventing the development of sperm carrying the Y chromosome. The research was addressing various questions including; can females discriminate against SR males? Turns out they can't or don't [1].

 

My role was small, but helped lower the work load for the lab tech. I helped feed and move populations, conducted mating trials and counted eggs.

References

 

  1. T. A. R. Price, Z. Lewis, D. T. Smith, G. D. D. Hurst, N. Wedell, 2012. No evidence of mate discrimination against males carrying a sex ratio distorter in Drosophila pseudoobscura. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. 66(4), pp. 561-568. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-011-1304-1

Copyright Jared Wilson-Aggarwal - JWA 2015