Hybrid incompatibility - the failure of two closely related species to produce offspring capable of surviving and reproducing -- has puzzled scientists from Charles Darwin, Thomas Hunt Morgan and Hermann Joseph Muller to today's geneticists and evolutionary biologists.
For Darwin, understanding the genetics of hybrid incompatibility was the key to the "mystery of mysteries": speciation, the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise.
To unlock the "mystery of mysteries," a group of seven scientists at four institutions have been trying to uncover the genes responsible for the best-studied case of hybrid incompatibility, the cross between the fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. Previous studies by Dan Barbash, Ph.D., and colleagues at Cornell University implicated two genes, Hybrid male rescue (Hmr) and Lethal hybrid rescue (Lhr), but these two genes are not sufficient to cause hybrid inviability.
At the GSA Drosophila Research Conference, Nitin Phadnis, Ph.D., of the University of Utah and his collaborators will describe the new genomics-based approach that enabled them to identify the missing hybrid incompatibility gene in the D. simulans genome. They are now studying the functions of Hmr, Lhr and the missing gene to determine the biological pathways that are disrupted in hybrid offspring.
"Genomics and the molecular basis of hybrid incompatibilities." Nitin Phadnis1, Emily Baker2, Jacob Kitzman3, Kimberly Frizzell1, Emily Hsieh4, Jay Shendure3, Harmit Malik4,5. 1) Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; 2) University of Wisconsin, Madison; 3) University of Washington, Seattle; 4) Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle; 5) Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional scientific society for genetics researchers and educators. The Society's more than 5,000 members worldwide work to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing the field of genetics, from the molecular to the population level. GSA promotes research and fosters communication through a number of GSA-‐sponsored conferences including regular meetings that focus on particular model organisms. GSA publishes two peer-‐reviewed, peer-edited scholarly journals: GENETICS, which has published high quality original research across the breadth of the field since 1916, and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open-access journal launched in 2011 to disseminate high quality foundational research in genetics and genomics. The society also has a deep commitment to education and fostering the next generation of scholars in the field. For more information about GSA, please visit http://www.