Supergenes consist of co-adapted loci that segregate together and are associated with adaptive traits. In the fire ant Solenopsis invicta, two 'social' supergene variants regulate differences in colony queen number and other traits. Suppressed recombination in this system is maintained, in part, by a greater than 9 Mb inversion, but the supergene is larger. Has the supergene in S. invicta undergone multiple large inversions? The initial gene content of the inverted allele of a supergene would be the same as that of the wild-type allele. So, how did the inversion increase in frequency? To address these questions, we cloned one extreme breakpoint in the fire ant supergene. In doing so, we found a second large (greater than 800 Kb) rearrangement. Furthermore, we determined the temporal order of the two big inversions based on the translocation pattern of a third small fragment. Because the S. invicta supergene lacks evolutionary strata, our finding of multiple inversions may support an introgression model of the supergene. Finally, we showed that one of the inversions swapped the promoter of a breakpoint-adjacent gene, which might have conferred a selective advantage relative to the non-inverted allele. Our findings provide a rare example of gene alterations arising directly from an inversion event.© 2018 The Author(s).
Journal: Proceedings. Biological sciences