Background: Male - female incompatibilities can be critical in keeping species as separate and discrete units. Premating incompatibilities and postzygotic hybrid sterility/inviability have been widely studied as isolating barriers between species. In recent years, a number of studies have brought attention to postmating prezygotic barriers arising from male - male competition and male - female interactions. Yet little is known about the genetic basis of postmating prezygotic isolation barriers between species.
Results: Using D. simulans lines with mapped introgressions of D. mauritiana into their third chromosome, we find at least two D. mauritiana introgressions causing male breakdown in competitive paternity success. Eighty one genes within the mapped introgressed regions were identified as broad-sense candidates on the basis of male reproductive tract expression and male-related function. The list of candidates was narrowed down to five genes based on differences in male reproductive tract expression between D. simulans and D. mauritiana. Another ten genes were confirmed as candidates using evidence of adaptive gene coding sequence diversification in the D. simulans and/or D. mauritiana lineage. Our results show a complex genetic basis for conspecific sperm precedence, with evidence of gene interactions between at least two third chromosome loci. Pleiotropy is also evident from correlation between conspecific sperm precedence and female induced fecundity and the identification of candidate genes that might exert an effect through genetic conflict and immunity.
Conclusions: We identified at least two loci responsible for conspecific sperm precedence. A third of candidate genes within these two loci are located in the 89B cytogenetic position, highlighting a possible major role for this chromosome position during the evolution of species specific adaptations to postmating prezygotic reproductive challenges.