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Genetic Control of Contagious Asexuality in the Pea Aphid

Abstract : Although evolutionary transitions from sexual to asexual reproduction are frequent in eukaryotes, the genetic bases of such shifts toward asexuality remain largely unknown. We addressed this issue in an aphid species where both sexual and obligate asexual lineages coexist in natural populations. These sexual and asexual lineages may occasionally interbreed because some asexual lineages maintain a residual production of males potentially able to mate with the females produced by sexual lineages. Hence, this species is an ideal model to study the genetic basis of the loss of sexual reproduction with quantitative genetic and population genomic approaches. Our analysis of the co-segregation of ,300 molecular markers and reproductive phenotype in experimental crosses pinpointed an X-linked region controlling obligate asexuality, this state of character being recessive. A population genetic analysis (.400-marker genome scan) on wild sexual and asexual genotypes from geographically distant populations under divergent selection for reproductive strategies detected a strong signature of divergent selection in the genomic region identified by the experimental crosses. These population genetic data confirm the implication of the candidate region in the control of reproductive mode in wild populations originating from 700 km apart. Patterns of genetic differentiation along chromosomes suggest bidirectional gene flow between populations with distinct reproductive modes, supporting contagious asexuality as a prevailing route to permanent parthenogenesis in pea aphids. This genetic system provides new insights into the mechanisms of coexistence of sexual and asexual aphid lineages.
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Julie Jaquiéry, Solenn Stoeckel, Chloé Larose, Pierre Nouhaud, Claude Rispe, et al.. Genetic Control of Contagious Asexuality in the Pea Aphid. PLoS Genetics, Public Library of Science, 2014, 10 (12), pp.e1004838. ⟨10.1371/journal.pgen.1004838⟩. ⟨hal-01093572⟩

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