Mitochondrial genetic effects on reproductive success: Signatures of positive intrasexual, but negative intersexual pleiotropy

M. Florencia Camus, Damian K. Dowling

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Theory predicts that maternal inheritance of mitochondria will facilitate the accumulation of mtDNA mutations that are male biased, or even sexually antagonistic, in effect. While there are many reported cases of mtDNA mutations conferring cytoplasmic male sterility in plants, historically it was assumed such mutations would not persist in the streamlined mitochondrial genomes of bilaterian metazoans. Intriguingly, recent cases of mitochondrial variants exerting male biases in effect have come to light in bilaterians. These cases aside, it remains unknown whether the mitochondrial genetic variation affecting phenotypic expression, and in particular reproductive performance, in bilaterians is routinely composed of sex-biased or sex-specific variation. If selection consistently favours mtDNA variants that augment female fitness, but at cost to males, this could shape patterns of pleiotropy and lead to negative intersexual correlations across mtDNA haplotypes. Here, we show that genetic variation across naturally occurring mitochondrial haplotypes affects components of reproductive success in both sexes, in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We find that intrasexual correlations across mitochondrial haplotypes, for components of reproductive success, are generally positive, while intersexual correlations are negative. These results accord with theoretical predictions, suggesting that maternal inheritance has led to the fixation of numerous mutations of sexually antagonistic effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180187
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1879
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018


  • Life history
  • Maternal inheritance
  • Mitochondria
  • Reproduction
  • Sexual antagonism
  • Sexual conflict

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