Hybrid dysfunction and physiological compensation in gene expression

Mol Biol Evol. 2015 Mar;32(3):613-22. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu321. Epub 2014 Nov 17.


The formation of new species is often a consequence of genetic incompatibilities accumulated between populations during allopatric divergence. When divergent taxa interbreed, these incompatibilities impact physiology and have a direct cost resulting in reduced hybrid fitness. Recent surveys of gene regulation in interspecific hybrids have revealed anomalous expression across large proportions of the genome, with 30-70% of all genes exhibiting transgressive expression (i.e., higher or lower levels compared with both parental taxa), and these were mostly in the direction of downregulation. However, as most of these studies have focused on pairs of species exhibiting high degrees of reproductive isolation, the association between regulatory disruption and reduced hybrid fitness prior to species formation remains unclear. Within the copepod species Tigriopus californicus, interpopulation hybrids at F2 or later generations show reduced fitness associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Here we show that in contrast to studies of interspecific hybrids, only 1.2% of the transcriptome is transgressively expressed in F3+ interpopulation hybrids of T. californicus, and nearly 80% of these genes are overexpressed rather than underexpressed; remarkably, none of these genes are among those showing divergent expression between parentals, nor is magnitude of transgressive gene expression in hybrids dependent on levels of protein sequence divergence. Moreover, many genes with transgressive expression are components of functional pathways impacted by mitonuclear incompatibilities in hybrid T. californicus (e.g., oxidative phosphorylation and antioxidant response). Our results suggest that hybrid breakdown at early stages of speciation may result from initial incompatibilities amplified by the cost of compensatory physiological responses.

Keywords: RNA-seq; gene expression; hybridization; mitochondrial dysfunction; speciation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copepoda / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / genetics*
  • Genetic Fitness / genetics*
  • Genetic Speciation*
  • Hybridization, Genetic / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • RNA, Messenger