Duplication and adaptive evolution of a key centromeric protein in mimulus, a genus with female meiotic drive

Findley R. Finseth, Yuzhu Dong, Arpiar Saunders, Lila Fishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The fundamental asymmetry of female meiosis creates an arena for genetic elements to compete for inclusion in the egg, promoting the selfish evolution of centromere variants that maximize their transmission to the future egg. Such "female meiotic drive" has been hypothesized to explain the paradoxically complex and rapidly evolving nature of centromeric DNA and proteins. Although theoretically widespread, few cases of active drive have been observed, thereby limiting the opportunities to directly assess the impact of centromeric drive on molecular variation at centromeres and binding proteins. Here, we characterize the molecular evolutionary patterns of CENH3, the centromere-defining histone variant, in Mimulus monkeyflowers, a genus with one of the few known cases of active centromere-associated female meiotic drive. First, we identify a novel duplication of CENH3 in diploid Mimulus, including in lineages with actively driving centromeres. Second, we demonstrate long-term adaptive evolution at several sites in the N-terminus of CENH3, a region with some meiosis-specific functions that putatively interacts with centromeric DNA. Finally, we infer that the paralogs evolve under different selective regimes; some sites in the N-terminus evolve under positive selection in the pro-orthologs or only one paralog (CENH3-B) and the paralogs exhibit significantly different patterns of polymorphism within populations. Our finding of long-term, adaptive evolution at CENH3 in the context of centromere-associated meiotic drive supports an antagonistic, coevolutionary battle for evolutionary dominance between centromeric DNA and binding proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2694-2706
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2015


  • CENH3
  • centromere evolution
  • female meiotic drive
  • gene duplication
  • genetic conflict
  • selfish evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'Duplication and adaptive evolution of a key centromeric protein in mimulus, a genus with female meiotic drive'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this