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Science And Nature

Asexual reproduction results in harmful genetic mutations

Goldteju Tupinambis teguixin. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

A team led by biologists at The University of Texas at Arlington has published a report supporting the idea that species that reproduce asexually have significantly more harmful genetic mutations than those utilizing sexual reproduction.

Jose Maldonado, a UTA doctoral student in biology, is lead writer of the brand new paper, titled “Parthenogenesis doubles the rate of amino acid substitution in whiptail mitochondria.” It had been published in-may in Evolution, the flagship journal of evolutionary biology.

Co-authors include T.J. Firneno, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Denver who received his Ph.D. from UTA in 2020; Alexander Hall, something application specialist at Thermo Fisher Scientific who received a Ph.D. from UTA in 2016; and Matt Fujita, UTA associate professor of biology, who’s Maldonado’s faculty advisor and previously served in exactly the same role for Firneno and Hall.

Parthenogenesis is really a natural type of asexual reproduction where growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization by sperm. It really is generally believed that sexual reproduction results in fewer harmful than asexual reproduction.

Within their new study, Maldonado and his co-authors tested this theory by studying Aspidoscelis, a genus of whiptail lizards. Because of their high abundance and distribution through the entire southwestern USA and northern Mexico, these reptiles are a fantastic model system to review the essential cellular mechanisms of and the genomic consequences of asexuality.

The team used whole mitochondrial genome data from asexual and sexual whiptail lizards to research their prediction that parthenogenetic lineages accumulate mutations faster than sexual lineages.

“Our study demonstrates that whenever whiptail lizards transition from reproducing sexually to asexually, it really is accompanied by the accumulation of harmful mutations in the mitochondrial genome,” Maldonado said. “If asexuals accumulate more threatening mutations than their sexual counterparts, as our findings show, this may explain why is rare in nature and just why sex may be the dominant type of reproduction in the natural world.”

The team sampled multiple populations of both asexual and sexual whiptail species through the entire southwestern USA and received additional tissue samples from collections at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle and the American Museum of Natural History in NEW YORK.

Their research showed that the transition to asexuality resulted in relaxed natural selection in parthenogenetic lizards and the buildup of nonsynonymous mutations, which change the of a gene and so are frequently put through . This supports previous theoretical predictions that “the increased loss of sex should result in an irreversible build-up of deleterious mutations because of decrease in the efficiency of purifying selection, and sex facilitates removing harmful mutations,” they wrote.

“The primary finding of our study is that asexual vertebrates, or at the very least these lizards, accumulate , that could be potentially harmful to the organism, at a higher rate than sexual species,” Firneno said. “That is important since there is a paradox that it’s a lot more costly to replicate sexually, but that it’s the pervading type of reproduction.”

More info: Jose A. Maldonado et al, Parthenogenesis doubles the rate of amino acid substitution in whiptail mitochondria, Evolution (2022). DOI: 10.1111/evo.14509

Citation: Asexual reproduction results in harmful genetic mutations (2022, August 1) retrieved 2 August 2022 from

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