Positive Selection at the Binding Sites of the Male-Specific Lethal Complex Involved in Dosage Compensation in Drosophila
In many taxa, males and females differ with respect to their sex chromosomes, and dosage compensation mechanisms have evolved to equalize X-linked gene transcription. In Drosophila, the male-specific lethal (MSL) complex binds to hundreds of sites along the male X chromosome and mediates twofold hypertranscription of the single male X. Two recent studies found evidence for lineage-specific adaptive evolution in all five core protein-coding genes of the MSL complex in Drosophila melanogaster. In particular, dramatic positive selection was detected in domains shown to be responsible for their specific targeting to the X chromosome. Here I use population genetics to show that three previously characterized MSL-binding DNA segments on the X themselves underwent adaptive evolution in D. melanogaster, but not in its close relatives D. simulans and D. yakuba. MSL components have been shown to not correctly target the D. melanogaster X chromosome in hybrids between D. melanogaster and D. simulans. My finding supports the idea of selection-driven coevolution among DNA-protein interactions of the dosage compensation machinery and suggests that misregulated dosage compensation could contribute to male hybrid inviability in Drosophila.