Asymmetric spermatocyte division as a mechanism for controlling sex ratios

Diane C. Shakes, William & Mary
Bryan J. Neva, William & Mary
Henry Huynh
Jyotiska Chaudhuri
Andre Pires-daSilva

Abstract

Although Mendel's first law predicts that crosses between XY (or XO) males and XX females should yield equal numbers of males and females, individuals in a wide variety of metazoans transmit their sex chromosomes unequally and produce broods with highly skewed sex ratios. Here, we report two modifications to the cellular programme of spermatogenesis, which, in combination, help to explain why males of the free-living nematode species Rhabditis sp. SB347 sire < 5% male progeny. First, the spermatogenesis programme involves a modified meiosis in which chromatids of the unpaired X chromosome separate prematurely, in meiosis I. Second, during anaphase II, cellular components essential for sperm motility are partitioned almost exclusively to the X-bearing sperm. Our studies reveal a novel cellular mechanism for the differential transmission of X-bearing sperm and suggest Rhabditis sp. SB347 as a useful model for studying sex chromosome drive and the evolution of new mating systems.