One little understood feature of polyploid speciation is the transition from polysomic to disomic inheritance, and much recent attention has focused on the role of pairing genes in this process. Using computer simulations we studied the effects of mutations, chromosomal inversions, chiasma, neofunctionalization, subfunctionalization and selection on the evolution of disomic inheritance in a polyploid over 10 000 generations. We show that: the evolution of pairing genes is not essential for the establishment of disomic inheritance, as genetic drift, coupled with a threshold for homologue pairing fidelity, is sufficient to explain the transition from polysomic to disomic inheritance; high rates of recombination increase the number of generations required for disomic inheritance to become established; both neofunctionalization and subfunctionalization speed up the transition to disomic inheritance. The data suggest that during polyploid species establishment, selection will favour reduced chiasma number and/or more focused distribution. The data also suggest a new role for subfunctionalization in that it can drive disomic inheritance. The evolution of subfunctionalization in genes across the genome will then act to maintain genes in syntenic blocks and may explain why such regions are so highly conserved.
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