The genetics of hybrid incompatibilities

Annu Rev Genet. 2011;45:331-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110410-132514. Epub 2011 Sep 6.


Incompatibilities in interspecific hybrids, such as sterility and lethality, are widely observed causes of reproductive isolation and thus contribute to speciation. Because hybrid incompatibilities are caused by divergence in each of the hybridizing species, they also reveal genomic changes occurring on short evolutionary time scales that have functional consequences. These changes include divergence in protein-coding gene sequence, structure, and location, as well as divergence in noncoding DNAs. The most important unresolved issue is understanding the evolutionary causes of the divergence within species that in turn leads to incompatibility between species. Surprisingly, much of this divergence does not appear to be driven by ecological adaptation but may instead result from responses to purely mutational mechanisms or to internal genetic conflicts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Chimera / genetics*
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Genetic Pleiotropy
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Mutation
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Reproductive Isolation*
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Heterochromatin
  • DNA