Short-term Visitor

Genetic conflict and plant evolution

PI(s): Lila Fishman (University of Montana)
Start Date: 10-Mar-2012
End Date: 15-May-2012
Keywords: evolutionary genetics, selfish genes, genomics

Genetic conflict -- among genes within genomes, among genomes within individuals - is an inherent outcome of the complexity of living organisms. Although genes spreading by natural selection often increase the fit of organisms to their environments, so-called selfish genetic elements can spread despite actually decreasing individual survival or reproduction. Recent research suggests that such elements, and the conflicts they cause, are widespread and have been important factors in evolution of everything from basic cellular processes to the barriers between species to the shapes of flowers. In flowering plants, examples of selfish genetic elements include rogue mitochondria that kill pollen and chromosomes that violate the rule of equal meiosis. This proposal includes two synthetic projects focused on understanding the consequences of such elements for plant evolution: 1) a broad review of theory and empirical data on conflict for a diverse audience and 2) an empirical analysis testing whether genetic conflict is driving rapid evolution of key components of the plant meiotic machinery.