Genetic architecture of traits associated with reproductive barriers in Silene: Coupling, sex chromosomes and variation

Mol Ecol. 2018 Oct;27(19):3889-3904. doi: 10.1111/mec.14562. Epub 2018 Apr 29.


The evolution of reproductive barriers and their underlying genetic architecture is of central importance for the formation of new species. Reproductive barriers can be controlled either by few large-effect loci suggesting strong selection on key traits, or by many small-effect loci, consistent with gradual divergence or with selection on polygenic or multiple traits. Genetic coupling between reproductive barrier loci further promotes divergence, particularly divergence with ongoing gene flow. In this study, we investigated the genetic architectures of ten morphological, phenological and life history traits associated with reproductive barriers between the hybridizing sister species Silene dioica and S. latifolia; both are dioecious with XY-sex determination. We used quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping in two reciprocal F2 crosses. One to six QTLs per trait, including nine major QTLs (PVE > 20%), were detected on 11 of the 12 linkage groups. We found strong evidence for coupling of QTLs for uncorrelated traits and for an important role of sex chromosomes in the genetic architectures of reproductive barrier traits. Unexpectedly, QTLs detected in the two F2 crosses differed largely, despite limited phenotypic differences between them and sufficient statistical power. The widely dispersed genetic architectures of traits associated with reproductive barriers suggest gradual divergence or multifarious selection. Coupling of the underlying QTLs likely promoted divergence with gene flow in this system. The low congruence of QTLs between the two crosses further points to variable and possibly redundant genetic architectures of traits associated with reproductive barriers, with important implications for the evolutionary dynamics of divergence and speciation.

Keywords: QTL; adaptation; ddRAD-seq; genetic coupling; reproductive barrier; speciation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Gene Flow
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Sex Chromosomes / genetics*
  • Silene / genetics*
  • Silene / physiology
  • Switzerland

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.8dt0gd1