Mitochondrial-nuclear epistasis affects fitness within species but does not contribute to fixed incompatibilities between species of Drosophila

Evolution. 2010 Dec;64(12):3364-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01077.x.


Efficient mitochondrial function requires physical interactions between the proteins encoded by the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. Coevolution between these genomes may result in the accumulation of incompatibilities between divergent lineages. We test whether mitochondrial-nuclear incompatibilities have accumulated within the Drosophila melanogaster species subgroup by combining divergent mitochondrial and nuclear lineages and quantifying the effects on relative fitness. Precise placement of nine mtDNAs from D. melanogaster, D. simulans, and D. mauritiana into two D. melanogaster nuclear genetic backgrounds reveals significant mitochondrial-nuclear epistasis affecting fitness in females. Combining the mitochondrial genomes with three different D. melanogaster X chromosomes reveals significant epistasis for male fitness between X-linked and mitochondrial variation. However, we find no evidence that the more than 500 fixed differences between the mitochondrial genomes of D. melanogaster and the D. simulans species complex are incompatible with the D. melanogaster nuclear genome. Rather, the interactions of largest effect occur between mitochondrial and nuclear polymorphisms that segregate within species of the D. melanogaster species subgroup. We propose that a low mitochondrial substitution rate, resulting from a low mutation rate and/or efficient purifying selection, precludes the accumulation of mitochondrial-nuclear incompatibilities among these Drosophila species.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Drosophila / classification
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / classification
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Epistasis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Male
  • X Chromosome


  • DNA, Mitochondrial