Conditional expression explains molecular evolution of social genes in a microbe

Janaina Lima de Oliveira, Atahualpa Castillo Morales, Balint Stewart, Nicole Gruenheit, Jennifer Engelmoer, Suzanne Battom Brown, Reinaldo A. de Brito, Laurence D. Hurst, Araxi O. Urrutia, Christopher R.L. Thompson, Jason B. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (SciVal)


Conflict is thought to play a critical role in the evolution of social interactions by promoting diversity or driving accelerated evolution. However, despite our sophisticated understanding of how conflict shapes social traits, we have limited knowledge of how it impacts molecular evolution across the underlying social genes. Here we address this problem by analyzing the genome-wide impact of social interactions using genome sequences from 67 Dictyostelium discoideum strains. We find that social genes tend to exhibit enhanced polymorphism and accelerated evolution. However, these patterns are not consistent with conflict driven processes, but instead reflect relaxed purifying selection. This pattern is most likely explained by the conditional nature of social interactions, whereby selection on genes expressed only in social interactions is diluted by generations of inactivity. This dilution of selection by inactivity enhances the role of drift, leading to increased polymorphism and accelerated evolution, which we call the Red King process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3284
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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