A measure of the within-chromosome synergistic epistasis for Drosophila viability


Aurora García-Dorado, Departamento de Genética, Falcultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
Tel.: 34 1 3944975; fax: 34 1 3944844;
e-mail: augardo@bio.ucm.es


In order to detect possible synergistic epistasis for viability in Drosophila melanogaster we assayed the relative viability of chromosomes II in: (i) panmixia, (ii) forced total homozygosity, and (iii) homozygosity for, on the average, half of their loci. As these genotypes were constructed using exactly the same set of chromosomes in the three cases, the design allows us to estimate the inbreeding depression rate at two different inbreeding levels in the absence of purging natural selection. Overall, no consistent synergistic epistasis was found. However, there was a small fraction of chromosomes whose severely deleterious effect when homozygous was almost significantly larger than expected from their viability when homozygous for half of their loci. This suggests occasional but important synergistic epistasis, which might confer evolutionary advantage to recombination in tightly linked genomes. Nevertheless, such epistasis is unlikely to be an evolutionary advantage driving the evolution of sexual anisogamous reproduction, as its contribution to overall viability is small when compared with the two-fold cost of anisogamy.