In wild house mice, genes linked to the t transmission distortion complex cause meiotic drive by sabotaging wild-type gametes. The t complex is consequently inherited at frequencies higher than 90%. Yet, for unclear reasons, in wild mouse populations this selfish DNA is found at frequencies much lower than expected. Here, we examine selection on the t complex in 10 seminatural populations of wild mice based on data from 234 founders and nearly 2000 progeny. Eight of the 10 populations decreased in t frequency over one generation, and the overall frequency of t haplotypes across all 10 populations was 48.5% below expectations based on transmission distortion and 34.3% below Mendelian (or Hardy-Weinberg) expectations. Behavioral and reproductive data were collected for 10 months for each population, and microsatellite genotyping was performed on seven of the populations to determine parentage. These combined data show t-associated fitness declines in both males and females. This is the first study to show evidence for a reduction in the ability of /t males to maintain territories. Because females tend to mate with dominant males, impairment of territorial success can explain much of the selection against t observed in our populations. In nature, selection against heterozygote carriers of the t complex helps solve the puzzlingly low t frequencies found in wild populations. This ecological approach for determining fitness consequences of genetic variants has broad application for the discovery of gene function in general.
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Vol. 58 • No. 6