Genetic mechanisms of sex determination are unexpectedly diverse and change rapidly during evolution. We review the role of genetic conflict as the driving force behind this diversity and turnover. Genetic conflict occurs when different components of a genetic system are subject to selection in opposite directions. Conflict may occur between genomes (including paternal-maternal and parental-zygotic conflicts) or within genomes (between cytoplasmic and nuclear genes or sex chromosomes and autosomes). The sex-determining system consists of parental sex-ratio genes, parental-effect sex determiners, and zygotic sex determiners, which are subject to different selection pressures because of differences in their modes of inheritance and expression. Genetic conflict theory is used to explain the evolution of several sex-determining mechanisms, including sex chromosome drive, cytoplasmic sex-ratio distortion, and cytoplasmic male sterility in plants. Although still limited, there is growing evidence that genetic conflict could be important in the evolution of sex-determining mechanisms.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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