Conditional hitchhiking of mitochondrial DNA: frequency shifts of Drosophila melanogaster mtDNA variants depend on nuclear genetic background

Genetics. 1995 Nov;141(3):1113-24. doi: 10.1093/genetics/141.3.1113.


Tests were performed of the selective neutrality of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variants from geographic populations of Drosophila melanogaster in Argentina (ARG) and Central Africa (CAF). The two populations were completely reproductively compatible. The two distinct mtDNA haplotypes from the two populations were competed in replicate experimental populations on three nuclear genetic backgrounds: homozygous ARG, homozygous CAF, or hybrid ARG/CAF. Mitochondrial haplotype frequencies did not change significantly on either of the two homozygous nuclear backgrounds, and there was no change after experimental perturbation of haplotype frequencies. On the hybrid background, the ARG haplotype frequency increased significantly for the first two generations in all replicate populations but then did not change in subsequent generations. After perturbation, the ARG haplotype frequency increased in only one of four replicates. There is no evidence for selective differences among mtDNA variants in homozygous nuclear contexts or for nuclear-mitochondrial coadaptation. While some "fitness" difference among mtDNA variants is required to account for the observed frequency shifts, it appears that in these hybrid populations, mtDNA is hitchhiking on fitness variation among hybrid segregating nuclear genes. These results have implications for the use of mtDNA in the study of hybrid zones and gene flow.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Central
  • Animals
  • Argentina
  • Cell Nucleus
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Male


  • DNA, Mitochondrial