The meaning of intragenomic conflict


Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in genes that function for their own good and to the detriment of other genes that reside in the same genome. Such intragenomic conflicts are increasingly recognized to underpin maladaptation and disease. However, progress has been impeded by a lack of clear understanding regarding what intragenomic conflict actually means, and an associated obscurity concerning its fundamental drivers. Here we develop a general theory of intragenomic conflict in which genes are viewed as inclusive-fitness-maximizing agents that come into conflict when their inclusive-fitness interests disagree. This yields a classification of all intragenomic conflicts into three categories according to whether genes disagree about where they have come from, where they are going, or where they currently are. We illustrate each of these three basic categories, survey and classify all known forms of intragenomic conflict, and discuss the implications for organismal maladaptation and human disease.

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Fig. 1: General classification of intragenomic conflicts.


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We thank S. Frank and M. Morrissey for helpful comments and discussion, and F. Úbeda Izargain for an original source of intragenomic conflict. A.G. is supported by an Independent Research Fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/K009524/1).

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A.G. and F.Ú. conceived the study, performed the analyses and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Andy Gardner or Francisco Úbeda.

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Gardner, A., Úbeda, F. The meaning of intragenomic conflict. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 1807–1815 (2017).

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