A single QTL with large effect is associated with female functional virginity in an asexual parasitoid wasp

Wen-Juan Ma*, Bart A. Pannebakker, Xuan Li, Elzemiek Geuverink, Seyed Yahya Anvar, Paris Veltsos, Tanja Schwander, Louis van de Zande, Leo W. Beukeboom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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During the transition from sexual to asexual reproduction, a suite of reproduction-related sexual traits become superfluous, and may be selected against if costly. Female functional virginity refers to asexual females resisting to mate or not fertilizing eggs after mating. These traits appear to be among the first that evolve during transitions from sexual to asexual reproduction. The genetic basis of female functional virginity remains elusive. Previously, we reported that female functional virginity segregates as expected for a single recessive locus in the asexual parasitoid wasp Asobara japonica. Here, we investigate the genetic basis of this trait by quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping and candidate gene analyses. Consistent with the segregation of phenotypes, we found a single QTL of large effect, spanning over 4.23 Mb and comprising at least 131 protein-coding genes, of which 15 featured sex-biased expression in the related sexual species Asobara tabida. Two of the 15 sex-biased genes were previously identified to differ between related sexual and asexual population/species: CD151 antigen and nuclear pore complex protein Nup50. A third gene, hormone receptor 4, is involved in steroid hormone mediated mating behaviour. Overall, our results are consistent with a single locus, or a cluster of closely linked loci, underlying rapid evolution of female functional virginity in the transition to asexuality. Once this variant, causing rejection to mate, has swept through a population, the flanking region does not get smaller owing to lack of recombination in asexuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1979-1992
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number9
Early online date15-Mar-2021
Publication statusPublished - May-2021


  • asexuality
  • candidate genes
  • female functional virginity
  • introgression
  • linkage map
  • loss of sex
  • resistance to mating
  • single major QTL

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