PerspectiveGenetics

Poisons, antidotes, and selfish genes

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 1013
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6119

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Summary

Selfish genetic elements are parasitic replicators that are specialists in ensuring their own transmission despite conferring no benefit, or even exacting a cost, on their bearers. They come in many flavors, such as transposable elements, segregation distorters, female meiotic drivers, and so-called B chromosomes (or accessory chromosomes) (1). Such selfish elements provide the strongest support for the gene-centric view of evolution, as popularized by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (2). On page 1051 of this issue, Ben-David et al. (3) chase down a serendipitous observation of an anomaly in genetic crosses to unmask a toxin-antidote type of selfish system in worms.