Innocenti P, Morrow EH, Dowling DK
Science 332 (6031) 845-848 [2011-05-13; online 2011-05-14]
Mitochondria are maternally transmitted; hence, their genome can only make a direct and adaptive response to selection through females, whereas males represent an evolutionary dead end. In theory, this creates a sex-specific selective sieve, enabling deleterious mutations to accumulate in mitochondrial genomes if they exert male-specific effects. We tested this hypothesis, expressing five mitochondrial variants alongside a standard nuclear genome in Drosophila melanogaster, and found striking sexual asymmetry in patterns of nuclear gene expression. Mitochondrial polymorphism had few effects on nuclear gene expression in females but major effects in males, modifying nearly 10% of transcripts. These were mostly male-biased in expression, with enrichment hotspots in the testes and accessory glands. Our results suggest an evolutionary mechanism that results in mitochondrial genomes harboring male-specific mutation loads.