The genetics of inbreeding depression

Nat Rev Genet. 2009 Nov;10(11):783-96. doi: 10.1038/nrg2664.


Inbreeding depression - the reduced survival and fertility of offspring of related individuals - occurs in wild animal and plant populations as well as in humans, indicating that genetic variation in fitness traits exists in natural populations. Inbreeding depression is important in the evolution of outcrossing mating systems and, because intercrossing inbred strains improves yield (heterosis), which is important in crop breeding, the genetic basis of these effects has been debated since the early twentieth century. Classical genetic studies and modern molecular evolutionary approaches now suggest that inbreeding depression and heterosis are predominantly caused by the presence of recessive deleterious mutations in populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Consanguinity*
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Humans
  • Inbreeding*
  • Mutation*