UNC School of Medicine researchers discovered a gene called R2d2 – Responder to meiotic drive 2 – that breaks Gregor Mendel’s century-old “law of segregation,” which states that you have an equal probability of inheriting each of two copies of every gene from both parents.
For years, scientists had evidence that this law was being broken in mammals, but they didn’t know how. Now they’ve implicated R2d2, a so-called “selfish gene.” Led by UNC School of Medicine scientists, researchers from across the country used data from thousands of genetically diverse mice to show that female mice pass on one copy of the R2d2 gene more frequently than the other copy.
The discovery, published in PLoS Genetics, has wide ranging implications. For instance, when doctors calculate the probability of a person inheriting the genes responsible for a disease, the calculations are based on Mendel’s law. Findings from the fields of evolutionary genetics and population genetics are also based on Mendel’s law. And the discovery could have implications for the fields of biomedical science, infectious diseases, and even agriculture.
“R2d2 is a good example of a poorly understood phenomenon known as female meiotic drive – when an egg is produced and a “selfish gene” is segregated to the egg more than half the time,” said Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD, professor of genetics and senior author of the paper. “One notable but poorly understood example of this in humans involves the transmission fused chromosomes that can contribute to trisomies – when three chromosomes are passed on to offspring instead of two.” More.
Not sure apart from the name cachet, why they refer to the gene as “selfish” (a reference to Dawkins’ “selfish gene” claims).
It seems to be simply a gene that is more likely to be inherited from the maternal side, however it came to be there.
See also: Richard Dawkins responds to “Die, Selfish Gene, Die”: Mere adversarial journalism
Biology prof: Darwin’s finch variations may also be driven by “hidden genes” (DeWitt: These are genes that, while present in the population, are not linked to an observed phenotype.)
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