Frank, S. A. & Crepsi, B. J. 2011. Pathology from evolutionary conflict, with a theory of X chromosome versus autosome conflict over sexually antagonistic traits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108 (Suppl. 2):10886-10893.
Evolutionary conflicts cause opponents to push increasingly hard and in opposite directions on the regulation of traits. One can see only the intermediate outcome from the balance of the exaggerated and opposed forces. Intermediate expression hides the underlying conflict, potentially misleading one to conclude that trait regulation is designed to achieve efficient and robust expression, rather than arising by the precarious resolution of conflict. Perturbation often reveals the underlying nature of evolutionary conflict. Upon mutation or knockout of one side in the conflict, the other previously hidden and exaggerated push on the trait may cause extreme, pathological expression. In this regard, pathology reveals hidden evolutionary design. We first review several evolutionary conflicts between males and females, including conflicts over mating, fertilization, and the growth rate of offspring. Perturbations of these conflicts lead to infertility, misregulated growth, cancer, behavioral abnormalities, and psychiatric diseases. We then turn to antagonism between the sexes over traits present in both males and females. For many traits, the different sexes favor different phenotypic values, and constraints prevent completely distinct expression in the sexes. In this case of sexual antagonism, we present a theory of conflict between X-linked genes and autosomal genes. We suggest that dysregulation of the exaggerated conflicting forces between the X chromosome and the autosomes may be associated with various pathologies caused by extreme expression along the male–female axis. Rapid evolution of conflicting X-linked and autosomal genes may cause divergence between populations and speciation.